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"Villager hopes knitted bears offer comfort to those suffering in Africa and Haiti"
The Villages' Daily Sun
January 12, 2009
By Rachel Katz, Daily Sun

THE VILLAGES — Every time Mary Alice Schueler picks up her knitting needles and yarn, another life is changed.

It may not provide food or shelter or clothing, but for a young child, a teddy bear can be the greatest known comfort.

“In the big scheme of life, it’s a little thing, but little things can mean so much,” Schueler said.

Schueler, a Village of Santiago resident, hand-knits bears for the Mother Bear Project, a nonprofit organization that sends bears to children throughout Africa and Haiti who are affected by HIV/AIDS.

The bears are simple enough: no buttons, no beads, no fancy knitting skills needed.

All it takes is one pattern, a little yarn and a big heart.

Schueler began knitting for Mother Bear just over a year ago and already she has made more than 100 bears.

A few months ago, she received notice that one of her bears was featured on the Mother Bear Web site.

In the photograph, the child, who lives in Zimbabwe, holds onto the bear tightly, lips grazing the bear’s head.

On the bear’s tag is a visible note that features Schueler’s last name from her first marriage, which she uses when making the bears: “With love, Mother Bear Grandma Drees.”

“I like seeing my bear in action, (knowing) that it’s been received and that it’s valid,” Schueler said. For a knitter like Schueler, helping the Mother Bear Project was a natural choice. “I see how my grandchildren like them, and they have everything in the world,” she said.

When the bears are shipped to children in countries like Zambia, Rwanda, Uganda and Malawi, they mean much more than just creature comforts.

“They often have nothing else,” Schueler said. “It’s often a comfort measure.”

Already, Mother Bear has sent more than 35,000 bears to children with HIV/AIDS.

Each one is unique and, hopefully, makes the child feel that way.

“It just kind of warms your heart,” Schueler said.

For more information about Mother Bear Project, visit

Rachel Katz is a reporter with the Daily Sun. She can be contacted at 753-1119, ext. 9265, or


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