Family Stories

We are honored that our Penny Bears are used as opportunities to encourage people who struggle with difficult challenges to heal themselves and to create hope for others. The following programs are a brief example of the wide-ranging ways we have helped individuals and other organizations.

Loving Consolation
"I lost my twenty-two-year-old son, Christopher, in a car accident on March 26, 1995. Chris had fallen asleep at the wheel of a car and although he was rushed to Boston City Hospital by helicopter, he died on the operating table. The emergency room doctor assured us that Chris didn't know what happened, and that he never regained consciousness.

The sudden, unexpected death of a young, healthy person is impossible to comprehend. It takes a woman's body nine months to prepare for and give birth, but death snatches life away in seconds. My family and I were devastated and numb through much of the wake and funeral. That great overwhelming sadness affects everyone you love and care about in this world. Chris' older brother, Chuck, was twenty-seven and his younger brother, Jerry, was twenty-one, just fifteen months younger than Chris. There were so many of their friends in our home and out in the yard crying and consoling us, and one another. In their grief, people would tell us wonderful 'Chris stories', and we would freely share them with each other.

At one point during the initial grieving, my husband, Pat, and I went to our church to pray together. I kept repeating, 'Oh, my God; oh, my God; oh, my God!' I couldn't even pray. As I was looking up at the Crucifix, I felt God speak to my heart, 'Would you rather have not had Chris?' This thought gave me the strength to get through the wake and funeral. Our family needed our Christopher. He was the easygoing one we were all able to count on for his wit and compassion. Thank God we had him, even though we feel it was not long enough.

Three months into our grieving, the Old North Church in our town sponsored a bereavement group for parents who had lost children. My husband and I attended the meetings directed by the Reverend Patricia Long and held in the home of her co-leader, Penny Wigglesworth. There, we joined four other parents to share our hurts, losses, frustrations, fears, hopes, and many, many tears.

I told Penny one day how much I appreciated her opening her heart and her home to us, and how comfortable I was being there. I explained that some days it was just so hard to even get out of bed, never mind trying to function. Penny told me later that hearing that statement became part of her decision to open her home to people to help draw them out of their sense of isolation, and provide a sense of purpose in living. Her decision to help us, and others, became an important part of our difficult healing process..

I have designed a pendant and lapel pin in loving memory of our son, Christopher. Our family would like to share it with all grieving parents. The stone represents the traditional colors of blue for boys and pink for girls. The star represents our son, and the open heart is the love we shared. Although our hearts were broken, they are now opened…to see, to hear, to help, and to care about others who grieve the death of a child of any age."

Patricia Cerrutti

It is with love and deep respect for the Cerrutti family here in Marblehead that the Penny Bear Company shares the opportunity of offering Patricia's designs as symbols of consolation and healing to parents and grandparents everywhere. Patricia hopes the pin and pendant will one day be universally identified in the same way we recognize AIDS and Breast Cancer pins. The Cerrutti family encourages personal contact with them by directing e-mail, letters or phone calls to their attention here at the Penny Bear Company.

"Hunter Bears"

Hunter Craig2
Hunter Craig was a member of the Marblehead High School Class of 1999. Sadly, he died in a tragic car accident in October of that year. The heartache of receiving a phone call from a hospital or a visit from a police officer with the news of a death due to a car accident is unimaginable for most of us. The lives of families and friends are changed forever.

A great friend to many people, Hunter was also a loving son and brother, grandson, nephew, and cousin. He played lacrosse, hockey, youth baseball, and also a little golf. Hunter especially hated when life was unfair, but he so appreciated the joys of life and would often be seen wearing his favorite yellow baseball cap on which were printed the words, "Life is Good".

Now, small Penny Bears dressed in yellow sweaters and wearing pins with those three important words are symbols of our "Hunter Bear" safety awareness program. When local students receive their driver's licenses, they are gifted with a bear at school. Friends and relatives also give Hunter Bears to not-so-new drivers. The message on the bears' wrist tags is appropriate for everyone. It asks that drivers keep the bears in their cars as reminders to drive and live responsibly and safely, that Hunter had his whole life ahead of him, and that the result of making bad decisions or poor choices can devastate a life, a family, and a community.

In tribute to Hunter, we continue to work in partnership with his family and friends to remind others - and ourselves -- that life is good. The Hunter Bears are little, but they have a BIG message for all of us. We need to stop and think every time we get into a car…and to not drive while under any influence of drugs or alcohol, to not speed, and to wear a seat belt at all times. We need to have the courage to speak up to the driver and to our friends when we feel they are not acting responsibly.

 

To learn more about our Hunter Bear program, please contact us by phone or e-mail.

Elly Hugs and Safe Journeys

Elly Hug Volunteers - Roanoke, Virginia
Elly's mom, Mary Bickford, seated second from left.
Sam and Mary Bickford of Roanoke, Virginia believe in miracles…her daughter, Elly, has experienced one. We are honored to share Elly's story with you, and the courageous commitment her family and friends made in turning a tragic accident into opportunities for healing outreach and awareness

Elly and Mike 5 months after her accident
Elly and Mike,
five months after her accident

"One minute my daughter, Elly, and her husband, Mike, were crossing the street, eating ice cream cones. The next minute, she was fighting for her life. The impact from a pick-up truck threw Mike over the hood and dragged Elly several blocks as horrified witnesses looked on. The drunk driver, a repeat offender, fled the scene without stopping.

While Elly's recovery seemed almost hopeless, our family and friends remained ever hopeful. We were determined to 'hug' her back to health, through our love and prayers, courage and caring. I found comfort knitting simple scarves out of the softest yarn, praying as I knitted. I called them my Elly Scarves.

After seven weeks in a coma and countless operations, Elly uttered her first words, 'I love you,' to her husband, Mike, who had kept a constant vigil by her side. Her next words were 'awesome' and 'thank you.'

'These simple words showed the essence of Elly…her boundless capacity to love, her enthusiasm for life, her positive nature, and her sensitivity and humility,' said Mike.

Our family and friends - and even friends of friends - grateful beyond words for her journey toward recovery, wanted to honor Elly and those whose care and prayers have hugged her back to health.

As a tribute, they have knitted scarves like those I have made and nicknamed them Elly Hugs. Each scarf is created with the hope that its owner will be comforted by its warmth, and blessed by the hope it represents.

Mary Bickford…
Elly's mom

In a united effort to raise awareness about the responsibiities of safe driving and making good life decisions, and as a visable reminder that there are people ready to offer understanding support wherever life's journey's lead, Elly's famly and other volunteers in their area have also created a Safe Journey program patterned after our original "Hunter Bear" project. Each small Penny Bear wears a tiny version of an Elly Hug scarf, a pin-on button with the words "Safe Journey", and a wrist tag that explains Elly's and Mike's story.

To learn more about the Elly Hugs and Safe Journey projects, please contact:
The Penny Bear Volunteers
3382 Southwood Village Ct. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014

The Penny Bear Company
6 Elmwood Road
Marblehead, Massachusetts
(781-639-2828)
pennywigg@comcast.net

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