A Path to Making a Difference

Teddies for Tragedies originated with the Women’s Royal Voluntary Services workers (W.R.V.S.) who, in 1985, knit teddy bears for orphans housed in a temporary orphanage set up by the Emergency Care for Children (ECC) nurses in a Sudan refugee camp for 2,000 children with tuberculosis.

The teddies were such a success that more were requested. Soon teddies were being sent to Peru, Uganda, Zambia, Jamaica, Armenia, India, Thailand, Romania, Croatia, Albania and Nepal.

Doctors who treat children in Third-World countries found that the teddies were sometimes as important to healing as the medicines. And like medicine, a continual supply of teddies is needed as each child keeps the bear he or she receives.

It was during a visit to England in 1998 that Inge Sardy and Val Thomas discovered Teddies for Tragedies and were inspired to meet this need for more teddies. They brought the concept back home to Canada and soon friends and family were also caught up in knitting teddies.

But after the first Canadian chapter Teddies for Tragedies website was created by Gisele Toth, and the organization received some media coverage, the bears started to come in from all over the country.

Then, friends took bears with them abroad:

  • Simon Kattar, founder of Waladi Child Education Fund of Toronto took 45 bears with him to an orphanage in Lebanon.
  • Inge Sardy and Val Thomas took 200 bears to an orphanage in Craiova, Romania and others went to Costa Rica and Brazil in May of 1999.
  • The bears made their way to children in Mexico and Lebanon

Transporting the teddies was a problem at the time since 200 bears could not fit into suitcases. So it is with a special “Thank You” to Air Canada that the problem was solved. The solution was to stuff two single sleeping bags joined by the zippers with the teddies. Then, the rolled up sleeping bags could be tagged and shipped to their destination for free by Air Canada.

For over seven years, the collection and forwarding of the teddies was handled by Gwen Smith; a special angel who processed the thousands of bears mailed to her and the hundreds of bears dropped at her door. Now, the bears are sent to Gisele Toth.