Teddy Cares drive accepting sponsorships through mid-December
Vicki Bergeron of Luling remembers the words of her late son, Kyle, vividly.
“He told me, ‘Mom, please don’t forget the children,’” Bergeron said.
It’s those words that are ultimately at the heart of the annual Teddy Cares drive, now in its 11th year. Established by Bergeron and her son Logan — the twin brother of Kyle — through Teddy Cares, stuffed bears are delivered to children who are being treated for cancer at local hospitals in order to bring a smile to their faces during the most trying of times.
In 2006, Kyle passed away at the age of 18 after a 22-month battle with leukemia. Bergeron recalled the exhausting treatment her son had to undergo, but also his own disbelief at the fact younger children had to endure the same pain.
“All the little ones (at the hospital) looked up to him. But he also looked to them … the treatment was so hard on him, even as an older guy,” Bergeron said. “He’d just tell the doctor to knock him out during, because it made him so sick. He’d tell me, ‘Mom, they’re just so young.’ He always felt so bad for them.”
Following his passing, Bergeron and Logan brainstormed ways to honor and continue Kyle’s memory—“We hoped to do something that would make him proud,” Bergeron said — and something clicked in Logan’s mind that’s since become a tradition.
“He just blurted it out. ‘Mom, we’ve gotta get our money together that we’d spend on him, that you’d spend on us for Christmas, and bring Teddy Bears to the kids at the hospital,’” she said. “He just knew that’s what we had to do, and there wasn’t any question. I feel like (Logan and Kyle) they still have that thing, that connection going on (as twins).”
As many as 300 bears have been delivered in a given year to brighten the holidays for hospitalized children and their families. Through the Teddy Cares drive, sponsors are secured for each bear for $10, and each sponsor may name the bear. Often, the bears are named in memory of loved ones who have passed.
Bergeron said there is little in the world that matches the feeling of seeing a child’s face brighten when receiving their bear, which she delivers to local hospitals the Saturday before Christmas.
But even beyond that, she said the process is truly a rewarding one as it allows a connection with families battling the same great adversity that her own knows all too well.
“I feel like every year, God is putting me in touch with someone or a family that I just have a connection with,” she said. “I can feel Kyle … I can feel the connection, that I’m being put in that family’s path and I feel compelled to connect with them. You walk into the room and … we relive those feelings, what we went through, and we just know.
“We embrace, the tears come … there’s that feeling of hopelessness and helplessness we felt ourselves, and you just hope to be able to help in some kind of way.”
“As much as it brings smiles and joy to kids, this is what I look to get through the holidays.” – Vicki Bergeron
A new wrinkle to the cause this year has seen money raised at local schools to purchase gift cards for older children suffering from cancer.
“There’s a lot geared toward little ones, but we wanted to do the gift cards for the older kids too, so they can get what they’d like for Christmas,” Bergeron said.
She said the cause is therapeutic in many ways and helps her family cope with Kyle’s loss during the holiday season.
“As much as it brings smiles and joy to kids, this is what I look to get through the holidays,” she said.
The deadline to sponsor a bear is Dec. 15, extended from the initial date of Dec. 12. One may sponsor through mail to Vicki Bergeron, 115 Warren Drive, Luling, 70070; by donating to an account set up through First National Bank USA in Boutte; through Paypal at Teddycares@gmail.com; or through forms that can be found at a number of locations supporting the cause including Squeal and Moo BBQ, Maison Décor, Martin’s Nursery and Cherry Lane Boutique.