Watching a loved one go through a bout with cancer is pretty tough for people of all ages. Being a little girl and witnessing your young mother go through it has extra challenges. The experience inspired one girl in Florida to help others like her mom, and she’s using teddy bears to do it.
Eight-year-old Alivia Gustman was five when her mother Tara was diagnosed with breast cancer. Tara was just 34 at the time and says it had a big impact on the whole family. Determined to do what she could to make things better for other people battling the disease, Alivia came up with an idea.
She told WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida, “My teacher said that you can make a project that you can make. And if you like it, you can make it real one day. And I love teddy bears, so I just chose cancer bears to be my option.”
Alivia and her dad teamed up on the project, creating an organization called Cancer Bears. People who purchase a bear can customize it with a ribbon reflecting which form of the disease they or their loved one is fighting. A portion of the proceeds from the sales is donated to a different local or national cancer organization each month. Alivia says they are planning to send donations to Boca Regional Hospital, where her mom was treated, and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, where her sister had surgery.
Her father Michael says that he’s already seeing a positive impact on many different people from the organization, which has sold more than 200 bears so far, including one in Australia.
He explains, “The notes that we receive from people that are going through the treatment, from people that have purchased the bear for people going through treatment, people who have purchased a bear for children of parents that are going through treatment.”
The website currently offers white and brown bears, which can each be customized with a variety of ribbons, including those for breast, ovarian, childhood, prostate, and colon cancers, among others.
Alivia also shares her passion behind the project on the website.
She wrote, “Cancer has become important to me because my mom had breast cancer and I was sad. I started this company because I wanted to raise money for all types of cancer and help cheer people up!
“My hopes are that you will help make this a success and together we will make an impact on the fight against cancer while bringing smiles to people’s faces.”
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