SYSK: Memory Bears for families who've lost a loved one - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

SYSK: Memory Bears for families who've lost a loved one

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HOPKINTON (KWWL) -

"They all mean a lot," said Wanda Klaren of Hopkinton.

Klaren is talking about all the Memory Bears she's made for families who've lost a loved one.

"One lady said oh Wanda you have no idea what this has done, and oh yeah I do because I lost somebody, too," said Klaren.

The project started when Wanda lost her mother in January of 2001. My dad was having a very hard time with it. Their anniversary, her birthday and Easter was like three days apart that year," said Klaren.

To help her father, Wanda made an angel out of her mother's clothing. He loved it so much, she ended up making 22 angels for other family members.

That was in March, and Wanda began thinking ahead to Christmas and another project to help her father.

"My mom always had this bear by her chair, and every time I went there I looked at this bear, and I thought I think I can make that," she said.

But in June, her father died unexpectedly.

Using the pattern of her mom's bear, Wanda made this bear for herself out of her dad's shirt.

"My dad's bear got me through a breast cancer scare. I hug it. It's not him, but it's a part of him," said Wanda Klaren.

The bears started as a project for family members, but word quickly spread.

Wanda has shipped bears to Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio, Texas and even California.

She stopped keeping track of how many she's made, but believes she hit the thousand mark in 2010.

Wanda has a full-time job outside of making her Memory Bears, so it's not always easy to manage her time!

"Not very well around the holidays. I have to keep a calendar and give myself a time frame," she said.

She said her family knows September to December is "bear" season.

"Unfortunately the day after Thanksgiving their shopping and I'm behind the machines," said Klaren.

On average, it takes two and a half hours to complete one bear. No two bears are the same. She makes as many as families ask for with clothing they can provide.

"They come in as customers, but when they come back they leave as friends," she said.

Wanda Klaren her Memory Bears project is bittersweet, she's happy to help families, but knows they're dealing with a loss.

She just hopes her bears bring some comfort.

"They're hard to sew, but I know what it did for me to have my dad's bear," said Wanda Klaren.

If you'd like more information on the Memory Bears, click here.

Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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