Regular readers of this site will recognize Elmo, he's one of Avalon's favorites. More importantly for this page, is how he
became one of my favorites.
In the Spring of 2005, Avalon was suddenly hospitalized. Her sissies were very upset and knew that Avalon was too. Nick
(daddy) took Aurora and Ambrosia to Build-A-Bear to make an Elmo for Avalon to keep her company. As little kids will do,
they told the "stuffing" employee all about why they were making Elmo. As she stuffed Elmo, she allowed all three of them
to bless and kiss hearts to put in Elmo - after all, sissy needed as much love and good wishes as she could get.
The Build-A-Bear kindness didn't end there. The manager overheard Nick and the girls talking about Avalon. When they
went to check out, he wouldn't let them pay for Elmo - he said it was a gift from Build-A-Bear to her - to help her get
Now I'm sure that $20 didn't mean an awful lot to Build-A-Bear's bottom line. It did, however, mean mountains to ours.
We really couldn't afford Elmo that week - but sometimes other things just have to go - when something comes up. A toy
to bridge a scary experience, was the definition of "something" in our book. That manager's kindness - helped ease a
financial burden - and lifted the hearts of a very scared family.
When we came home, I logged on to the Build-A-Bear website. I was looking for a corporate address to send a thank you
note to - about our experience. What I found shocked me. Build-A-Bear raises money for pediatric cancer research! In
fact, they have a series of bears that are dedicated to the memory of a pediatric cancer patient that lost her fight. I was
I wrote an email to the "contact us" address, telling them about our Elmo experience - and thanking them for their
corporate giving. I honestly just wanted the person who reads all of the complaint emails - to have something positive to
read that day. Wow...was I in for a surprise!
The day after I sent the email, Avalon was hospitalized again. One afternoon, I grabbed a few moments to go to the
parents' lounge and check email. Among others, I had received an email from a stranger. It was kind and supportive,
and thanked me for having contacted Build-A-Bear. When I got to the end of the letter, I had to re-read, then re-re-read
the signature a few dozen times. The kind "stranger" who had taken time to write back - was none other than Maxine
Clark, founder and "Chief Executive Bear" of Build-A-Bear Workshop! Talk about a caring company! What other C.E.B.
can you imagine, who would care about kids enough to answer a very stressed, very worried cancer mom?
I had already been telling every Heme-Onc nurse, PCA, and doctor about Build-A-Bear's Elmo-kindness and their
pediatric cancer financial support. I couldn't log off of the computer fast enough to share my new news. Surprisingly, one
nurse on the floor was able to top it. I learned that, magically, every child on the floor last Christmas morning, received a
lovely, brand-new Build-A-Bear. According to the nurses, no one knew where the bears came from - they just showed
up. We all suspect that it may have been a corporate thing - a quiet, caring gift to children who desperately needed it.
What I can say for sure...is that a hug from a special friend is worth more than any medicine they could give that day.
If you're not impressed yet, sit tight - I'm not done. When Avalon was finally able to be home for a while, Ms. Clark asked
if she could send us a care package. What arrived was pure joy in a box. Build-A-Bear sent gifts to each of my girls.
Each girl received a Disney princess dress-up outfit for a Build-A-Bear. Ms. Clark had paid attention to my girls' names,
and sent them the princess outfits that correspond to their names. In addition, she sent them gift cards to build a friend to
wear the outfit. The girls were ecstatic!
It happened that we had a break in chemo (before the next phase), that allowed Avalon's blood values to recover enough
we could take her into public one night. Nick and I loaded up the three of them and headed to the same Build-A-Bear
that had been so kind weeks before. We turned the girls loose and told them they could pick any creature they wanted.
We had never been able to do that! Like most families, we normally can't afford to be silly and indulgent. It was
ridiculously fun to be both...
As we watched the girls hug-test friend after friend, we realized something. This was the first time we'd done anything as
a family - since Avalon was diagnosed. Nearly six months had passed since we first walked through the gates of fire. Six
months of stress, hospitals, pain, and uncertainty. Six months of medicine, missed work, separated family, and financial
disaster. But for one night, we got to forget all of that and just be a mommy and daddy taking their girls out for some silly,
mindless fun. Our daughters got to be silly little girls discussing teddy bear panties and party shoes, not siblings avoiding
IV lines and chemo syringes. We got to be normal...a concept we'd nearly forgotten.
I will never be able to thank Build-A-Bear enough for their generosity. Moreover, I will never be able to convey to Ms.
Clark how much I appreciate her continued interest in Avalon. The best I can think of to honor them, is to tell you that
they are Angels. As sure as I live and breathe - Maxine Clark has gossamer wings, she just wears them quietly and with
Corporate America spends way too much time patting itself on the back for the good it does. Companies never give a
dollar that they don't photograph it, publicize it, and work it for all of the sales benefit they can figure out how to wrangle.
A cynical analysis, yes - but an acccurate one, as well. That is, except for Build-A-Bear. Maxine Clark has created a
company that gives because its the right thing to do, not the thing to do right now. Build-A-Bear steadily and quietly gives
money to various causes, because they believe it to be part of their function as a member of society. I see the entire
company as being its own Army of Angels, mainly because the company sees itself as a part of a greater whole. To the
corporation, its board, and its thousands of employees...I say thank you. Your wings reach further than even you may
The lessons to be learned from Build-A-Bear are as simple as from any of our angels. No one person stands alone in this
world. We are all connected, and all need each other. If we reach out to our fellow man, the universe will reach back and
hold us close. I wish continued success to Build-A-Bear and especially to its visionary founder, Maxine Clark. She is
truly...one Angel in a million...
|These are random pictures from two
different hospital stays. I just wanted
to show you how important Elmo
continues to be to Avalon. He is her
bestest hospital buddy.
In the picture on the right, you can see
a white cat wearing a Belle costume
(between Cookie Monster and Elmo).
The cat is "Maxine" and is the friend
Avalon chose with her gift card.
"Maxine's" beautiful dress was her gift
outfit. Maxine is well known on the
Heme-Onc floor - the nurses call her
|Cookie Monster, Maxine, and Elmo
- during Avalon's birthday stay.
|For Avalon's birthday, we took her back to Build-A-Bear so she could make a Nikki-bear. Nikki-bears
are the bears dedicated to the pediatric cancer patient who lost her battle. This purple bear was the
one that was out during Avalon's diagnosis. There is a new model out now. Nikki is soft and huggable,
and a perfect new friend.
|Avalon is holding Nikki's "heart" in
her right hand. The "stuffing"
process has begun!
|Avalon is always masked if she is
in public. Its to protect her from
germs. She asked sissy to kiss
Nikki's heart for her. You kiss
the hearts so your friend will know
they are loved.
|Avalon may not have gotten to
kiss the heart, but she had no
problem putting it in.
|We rarely ever take Avalon out of her stroller when we are in public.
Most of the time, she is too tired to want to come out - but its also
another protective measure. Since Avalon couldn't work the pedal,
Ambrosia, helped Nikki get stuffed.
|Funny how even with the
mask...you can tell she's
grinning ear to ear!
Avalon's Army of Angels