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Knitting bears to show they care



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Knit Knack members pose with the 50 teddy bears they made for the Mother Bear Project. Pictured (from left): Carol Hauxwell, Mary Garrard, Lil Prawdzik, Mary Dempsey, Barbara Crue, Joyce Wood, Gail Enekes, Lynne McLoskey and Nancy Terry. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
October 12, 2011 - The teddy bear is more than just a simple child's toy.

He (or she) is often a kid's best friend.

The bear offers much-needed comfort during the long night, a playmate during the day, an ear to hear secrets and a furry body to absorb tears. The bear never questions, never judges, never goes away.

It's awful to think there are so many lonely children in the world who go to bed every night without a warm, soft teddy bear tucked safely in their arms.

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That's why the kind and compassionate ladies of the Oxford knitting group known as Knit Knack created approximately 50 teddy bears for the Mother Bear Project.

"It's a children's charity and we really like to do things for children," said Knit Knack member Mary Garrard. "It looked like a fun project to do."

Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the organization sends crocheted and knit teddy bears to children in emerging nations affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

In Africa alone, more than 11 million children have been orphaned by this terrible disease.

"They have little to eat, limited medical care and many have no place to sleep," according to the Mother Bear Project. "Something as simple as a handmade bear can bring comfort and hope to a child who struggles to survive."

"We want to bring them some cheer," Garrard said. "Let them know that God's working in their lives somehow."

Garrard indicated that about 90 percent of the yarn used to make the bears was donated to Knit Knack.

"People know we do things for charity, so they tend to donate yarn," she said.

The money to ship the bears was raised over the summer through a bake sale held during Celebrate Oxford. According to www.motherbearproject.org, shipping costs $3 per bear.

Knit Knack's bears were blessed during the Sunday service at Oxford United Methodist Church. Before they're shipped off, each bear will have a tag placed on it carrying the name of the person who created it.

"The kids see that name and they tend to name the bear that," Garrard said.

These simple gifts let the children who receive them know that "they are loved by someone halfway around the world," according to the Mother Bear Project.

A red felt heart is sewn on each bear before it's shipped to a child in Africa.

This isn't the first charity Knit Knack members have employed their skills to help.

Last year, the group knitted 40 sweaters for World Vision International, a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice.

The group's also knitted shawls and wheelchair bags for the Lake Orion Nursing Center and "lapghans" for veterans.

During the Christmas season, the group often knits hats, mittens and scarves for both local school kids in need and the Baldwin Center, a human services agency in Pontiac that aids the poor.

Knit Knack consists of both church members and non-members who meet every Friday from 2-4 p.m. at Oxford UMC (21 E. Burdick St.).

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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