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Knitted with Love- Local Club Aids Mother Bear Project
By Amy Maginnis-Honey
Daily Republic - Fairfield, CA on September 9, 2004

Knitted with love Local Club Aids Mother Bear Project By Amy Maginnis-Honey Daily Republic Though Barbara McGee has 12 grandchildren, she's knitting bears for children in developing nations. "(I'm glad) we are able to help these little kids. There is so much going on in their lives. This is a little thing to make them smile," she said. McGee, president of the local Newcomer's Club, joins about 15 members once a month to knit the bears for the Mother Bear Project, a Minneapolis-based effort to provide a little smile around the world.

It was begun by Amy Berman, a Minnetonka, Minn., resident who was enraged by a story in a January 2003 magazine describing the rape of thousands of infants an girls in South Africa. The story mentioned that teddy bears, dolls, games and books were being delivered to the rape victims through the Child Protection Unit in Durban, South Africa. But there was a need for more. Berman dug out an old teddy bear pattern and told other Minnetonka moms about the story and the bears. She founded the Mother Bear Project because of the overwhelming interest. Girl Scouts, senior citizens and countless others have joined in via the Web site While the majority contribute their labor, financial donations also help buy supplies and postage.

More than 3,300 bears have been sent to South Africa, Zambia and other countries through the Mother Bear Project. "Our first shipment will go out at the end of September," said Newcomers member Caryol Skog, who suggested the project after hearing about it from her sister. "And it will be filled with love," added fellow Newcomer Teri Keck. The club has completed more than 30 bears. "This is something for the children that is all theirs," Skog said.

Pat Petrus had one that she had just completed. "I think he's cute and cuddly," she said of the bear that donned blue pants and a multicolored sweater. She learned to knit in high school while visiting the local department store and took lessons. "This is when they had knitting and yarn departments," she explained. "And, there was a teacher that went right along with it."

Over the years, Petrus has knitted sweaters and afghans. "I just can't stand to sit and not have something to do," she explained. Her bear came complete with a big smile. "I tried to make it round (the smile), but it didn't work," she said. "They're fun to make and it's nice to know you're doing something that's worthwhile," she added. A color printout form the Web site, complete with pictures of kids snuggling their bears, was placed near the box of completed ones for inspiration. "I'm really, really amazed," Keck said, noting she also enjoyed the color artwork that serves as thank-yous form the kids. Skog had to do a quick repair on one of the bears. "He's having a little operation, he's under repair," she laughed as she sewed yarn to together to cover the bear's backside. "We may have a scar." The bear survived quite nicely and will soon be in the arms of a child.

Fran East picked up some of the completed ones and noted "This guy really needs an eyeball." She took him back to table to make sure he'd have a new view on the world. Each bear has its own personality since each has a different creator. Though the Newcomers followed the same pattern, the bears do vary a little in size. The biggest one has been appropriately dubbed "papa bear." Each woman puts her name on a tag tied to each bear. They've heard some of the kids give that name to their bear. All women know some knitting before beginning though all say the project can be completed with minimal knowledge.

Skog said her skills were definitely "not professional," calling them "mediocre." "This is a very simple pattern. Anyone with knowledge of knitting can ship it up in no time," she said. She picked a completed bear up from the box. "You know a child is going to hug that bear," she said.

Each crafter donates their own supplies and $3 per pear to help with the cost of postage. The club offers several social events, too. The bear makers are an offspring from the craft group which has been on hiatus for this work. The group will probably have enough yarn left over to do another project, possibly knitting afghan squares for the homeless or residents of skilled nursing facilities. For information on the project, visit the Web site. If you would like to help the Newcomers with their effort, call 422-8047.

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