At last count, Peggy Williams has finished and sent 6,458 bears to children (and some adults) who truly need them.
Now 88 years old, Williams says, “There have been many children who have been comforted by these little bears. I have even heard that CHEO sent some of them to a home for adults suffering from Alzheimer’s disease: they loved them. About four years ago, I sent 100 bears to babies in an orphanage in Chernobyl. Helping others, well, it just makes you feel good.”
Each of Williams’ small bears is lovingly made by hand in bright colours, soft and huggable. Since 2001 she has been sending bundles of them off to CHEO in Ottawa.
“CHEO sometimes calls them ‘pocket pals’, although I tend to think of them all as bears,” Peggy laughs.
“They can go with a small patient into X-Ray units, with them for CT Scans. They are easily sterilized, so there really is nowhere in the hospital they can’t go. One of these bears is a friend for a child (even a child in his or her teens) to hold.”
Assisted by her daughter Dorothy Williams (“Peggy is the knitter. I cannot knit. I handle the stuffing and the bears’ faces,” Dorothy laughs), Peggy can make as many as five bears a day.
“But the creation of a personality for each bear takes a little longer.”
Dorothy says that her mother has always been a volunteer.
Originally the family operated Ottawa Valley Ceramics in Kars. Despite the demands of helping to run the business, Peggy continued to find ways to help her community.
She personally knitted 600 outfits for ‘preemies’ prior to 2001. Along with creating her bears, last year she also began crocheting afghans for CHEO. “They help to warm people in their beds, or when they are in wheelchairs. I make sure the afghans are bright and cheerful.”
When they lived in Manotick, CJOH learned about the Williams ladies’ efforts. Max Keeping ran a story about their work at CHEO on the television news.
In 2010, Peggy moved to Iroquois.
“I love it here. I wanted a place where I could see things going on. From my living room I can watch the river, the roads, the planes landing and I can still keep right on making my bears.”
In all the years that Peggy and Dorothy Williams have been making bears, only twice have they received any actual financial help to defray the costs of materials. They accept and collect yarn and material from friends and neighbours. They are very grateful when people make donations of knitting and crocheting material to them.
In the meantime, the Williams’ bears are off on a new journey.
Pictured above, in the centre, is Diane Orlicky, who is taking 110 of the bears to the 2012 South Dundas Christmas Exchange. Left is Peggy Williams, right, her daughter, Dorothy.
“I plan to keep on working on this as long as I can,” Dorothy Williams said.