I wanted to share the story of Ari’s Bears and the amazing girl who dreamed up the idea. Ariella was a fiercely independent, spunky, feisty, sassy, generous, and kind girl. Even at a very young age she was worried about others and wanted to make anyone who seemed to need comfort feel better. Her personality did not change one bit even after she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in February 2017 at age 9 and endured 17 rounds of chemo and extensive limb salvage surgery along with numerous other illnesses, surgeries, and complications. Despite spending every other week in the hospital for treatment Ariella still managed to make the most of her life outside the hospital, spending time with friends, going on outings, and hanging out at the dance studio even though she was unable to dance. Ariella was not going to let cancer stop her.
During treatment Ariella was the recipient of many packages and goodies from various organizations. They always cheered her up. Her favorite though were the JoyJars she received from the Jessie Rees foundation. Jessie was a young girl diagnosed with DIPG (a terminal brain cancer) but despite that she wanted to cheer up other children in hospitals and began stuffing her own toys in bags to give to those children. The JoyJars were filled with small toys, games and things like socks and earbuds and Ariella always looked forward to receiving hers. But not only that, Ariella was inspired to also help other sick children in hospitals and Ari’s Bears was born.
Ariella decided that she wanted to go to Build a Bear and build bears to bring to children in hospitals. She used her own money and asked for Build a Bear gift cards rather than birthday and Chanukah gifts for herself. As part of her treatment incentives she earned points towards rewards for difficult procedures. Instead of redeeming those points for herself she redeemed them for Build a Bear gift cards so she could make and deliver as many bears as possible. She started by bringing the bears with her to clinic appointments and hospital stays but soon branched out and delivered to 8 local hospitals and respite houses as well as mailed bears out of state.
Relapse in June 2018 did not stop Ariella from continuing on with her mission. She recruited friends to help build bears and continue delivering to local hospitals. Many weekends were spent at Build a Bear with Ariella’s goal to have Ari’s Bears have a presence in all states. Her relapse treatment led to her having a bone marrow transplant in February 2019 which devastatingly led to multiple complications ultimately leading to Ariella’s death 5/9/2019. Her father and I cannot let Ariella’s dream and passion die with her so we are continuing with her legacy by expanding Ari’s Bears so more children will be reached and the world will know about this special young girl who cared more about others than herself despite being in a nightmarish situation.