August 7, 2007
Tifton -- Some people can see past their own window to the world and want to make a positive difference a long way from home. We met one sweet lady who uses her talents to help kids she'll never see.
"Making bears. Every time I use the wooden pattern, I bless the man who made it," says Teddy Bear Maker Juanita Garner. She's talking about a pattern she's used thousands of times to make something special. "I believe over five thousand," she says.
Out of the five thousand bears she's made so far, she has given about two thousand to her local hospital. The rest she sent to children who don't know what a toy is, much less what a stuffed bear is.
"Many of these children have never had a toy in their life," says Juanita, who didn't have a teddy bear when she was growing up either.
"I don't remember having one." But she remembers all too well a significant loss in her life.
Four years ago her husband died unexpectedly right before her eyes. "It hit me very hard."
She intends to keep her hands and eyes busy as a way of coping. "It keeps me busy; it gives me something else to think about."
At 92-years-young with failing eye sight, Juanita wants to make as many bears as she can before losing her vision. "It pleases me very much."
She works six days a week to make the bears and thinks about the children who will get them-usually very sick children in Papua New Guinea, a south Pacific country north of Australia.
"Ninety percent of them will die. They have tuberculosis and AIDS, and very poor treatment sometimes."
With the odds against the helpless little ones, at least the kids will have a toy made just for them from someone who knows about the loss of a loved one.
"Probably a dying child. So if he can have this little bear to lay his little head on, his dying moments, that makes me happy."
And that gives Juanita a little peace.