In the News
"Woman, 95, Knits for Children with AIDS"
Published in The News-Herald, Wayne County, Michigan
March 19, 2006
By Paula Evans Neuman
Louise Moon, 95, of Allen Park knits teddy bears for children who have lost everything.
She has never been to Africa, and probably never will be, but her cuddly bears will make the long journey soon.
Through the Mother Bear Project, the bears will find their way from the hands of the Allen Park grandma into the arms of children orphaned or infected by AIDS.
The children of sub-Saharan Africa who will get the bears have witnessed a world of poverty, crisis, disease and death.
And thousands have been abused, as well, because of a cruel myth that having sex with a young virgin makes a man immune to AIDS.
Moon has always cared about children, said her daughter, Mary Jane Lake of Wisconsin.
A recent stroke took a lot from the Allen Park senior, including most of her ability to speak. Her bears, however, speak for her with eloquence.
She used to knit sweaters, scarves, hats and mittens for children in Head Start programs, Lake said.
When that got too hard, she made prayer shawls and potholders. But the bears she makes for the Mother Bear Project are for children, and that’s important to Moon.
The project has given her mother a mission, and the knowledge that she is needed and useful despite her limitations, her daughter said.
“She knits every single day,” Lake said. “She’s made 19 bears since Christmas.”
Lake learned about the Mother Bear Project by chance, or perhaps it was synchronicity – a word for how things sometimes seem to happen in just the right way.
She was traveling to Michigan to take care of her mother – family members take turns staying with her – and saw a woman at the airport knitting something.
“I just was nosy, and asked her what she was making,” Lake said.
The woman told her she was making teddies for Project Mother Bear, and explained what it was for.
Lake was inspired. She thought immediately of her mother. She looked up the project online, and knew it was “perfect,” she said.
The pattern for the bears is easy enough for Moon, requiring only one stitch.
“It is so simple and they don’t take long,” Lake said. “You could make one in a day.”
When Lake stays with her mother in Allen Park she helps her with the project.
“I sew them together and stuff them,” she said. “We’ve embellished them and they're just darling.”
When she shows them to her mother, Moon just beams, she said.
The nonprofit Mother Bear Project was started a few years ago by Amy Berman of Minnesota, a 39 year-old mother of two.
She read a newspaper article about the AIDS epidemic and Africa, and about the children and what was happening to them.
Since then, her project to send love and comfort to those children has gathered more and more knitters across the country, and thousands of bears, all made with the same simple pattern, have gone to Africa.
Often, the bears are a priceless gift to child who has endured unspeakable horror and has nothing of his or her own.
And that’s why Moon keeps making them, and why she beams when she sees one finished, Lake said.
Each Mother Bear Project pattern costs $3, a price that offsets the shipping charges to Africa. Moon and Lake are hopeful that others will start making bears.
The finished ones are returned to the Mother Bear Project. Volunteers attach a heart to the toy’s chest and mail them to orphanages and centers in Africa.
Each bear is place in the arms of child with a tag attached to it, signed by the person who made it – a message that someone halfway across the world cares.