Resident has donated handmade teddy bears to children near and far
Wichita Presbyterian Manor resident Eleanor Ralls was all set to make quilts for her two small grandsons in Pennsylvania. But then her daughter had a different idea. She asked her mother to make the boys teddy bears.
Eleanor had never consider making stuffed animals, but she agreed. Then she made a few more bears. And a few more.
“It gave me something to do, instead of watching TV all day. When I got a bunch of extras, I gave them to the hospital,” Eleanor said. “I never thought I would make as many as I have.”
That was about 20 years ago. Eleanor numbered the bears for many years, but she stopped counting at 563. There have probably been a few dozen since then. It takes a couple of weeks to make a couple of bears, she said. She has given 20 each to St. Francis and Wesley medical centers for their children’s hospitals. And she made 19 for her own doctor.
“My doctor says that when a family comes in with kids, they find one of those bears and they hug it, and it makes them so happy. And that makes me happy,” she said. “I took three to him this last week. And he’s still just tickled with them.”
The toys have traveled well beyond Kansas. Eleanor’s son took several with him on two trips to Guatemala. Others have been sent to California, Canada, Texas, Virginia, and beyond.
Eleanor’s daughter, who raises horses and dogs near Augusta, helps supply her mother with material – especially old denim. Eleanor also makes dog beds for the puppies her daughter raises. Her Bernina sewing machine has been put through its paces. “As long as it’ll sew, I’m using it,” she said.
Since Eleanor’s husband died about 10 years ago, her children have gravitated back toward Kansas to be closer to her.
The boys who got the first bears are now all grown up. When they moved back from Pennsylvania, the younger grandson – now 25 — brought along 13 handmade bears that his grandmother had sent to him. He’s put them away for safekeeping until he can pass them on to children of his own.