One day, about 10 years ago, the monthly strain of a Relief Society project to make teddy bears to comfort children of abuse was beginning to take a toll. A member of the group — wearied by the grind — wondered how long this service project would continue.
"I didn't know how to answer her at first," said Ruth Brasher. "While I was mulling over an answer, another sister said, 'As long as there are children.'
"No one has raised the issue since," she said.
Sister Brasher organized this service project in 1992 for the Relief Society of the Pleasant View 9th Ward, Provo Utah Sharon Stake. She felt that making teddy bears for children in the Children's Justice Center would require steady sacrifice for a long time. The Children's Justice Center is a haven for children of physical or sexual abuse. Here, law enforcement authorities interview the children, hoping to minimize the horror of retelling the abuse.
Sister Brasher watched on one occasion as a 3-year-old came down the hallway clutching tightly to her mother's neck. When the little girl saw the teddy bears all lined up, she relaxed her grip around her mother, picked her favorite bear and hugged it with the same tight grip, she said.
Each bear requires four to five hours of work. Each month Relief Society sisters produce about 50 teddy bears. An average of 20 sisters meet one Tuesday each month at the ward meetinghouse. Some stay the five hours. Others, usually those with young families, work for 45 minutes. "They do what they can," Sister Brasher said.
Beyond comforting abused children, Sister Brasher has seen the good this project has done for the Relief Society sisters.
One sister thought she had contributed all she could after her husband died. After getting involved with the teddy bears, she found new purpose and felt to make a bear a day; then she felt to make two, finally three.
Though they wish to remain unanimous, these sisters were honored May 5 with the National Children's Alliance Group Award in ceremonies in Washington, D.C. The ovation lasted so long, Sister Brasher said she began to feel uncomfortable.
"This far exceeds anything I imagined," she said. — Shaun Stahle