The ACPA Cleft Courage Bear Comes Full Circle

Alyssa KirkmanWater Cooler Chat

Wendy-Jo Toyama, MBA, CAE headshot

Wendy-Jo Toyama, MBA, CAE

The ACPA Cleft Courage Bears arrived at ACPA in January. We are grateful to Karen LeClair, who in 1989 took needle and thread in hand to create the first teddy bear with stitches to supply comfort to children. Karen was born with a cleft and palate. In addition to providing comfort to those affected by cleft, she had a vision to raise awareness of the importance of team care. Karen herself did not connect with a team until she was an adult. Karen visited our offices in December to share her story, which we include on a card that is shipped with each bear. She also wanted to learn more about what ACPA is doing to raise awareness and support families.

In February, the National Office Team sat down with Karen to talk about how we serve families – we respond to inquiries and provide personalized support.  In addition, the 176 ACPA Approved Teams in the U.S. and Canada treat more than 76,000 patients each year. The ACPA Family Services program also creates and distributes patient educational material. And just in 2018, almost 500 ACPA Cleft Courage Bears have been placed in their forever homes. Karen was also interested in what we do to raise funds and how she could help. We discussed ACPA’s current campaigns and described the President’s Circle, a major donor society introduced this year.

But the highlight of our meeting was the unscheduled visit by Cooper’s family who had been in town receiving care with their team. This family stopped by the office to get an ACPA Cleft Courage Bear. And as luck or fate would have it, they arrived while Karen was meeting with us. It was a powerful opportunity to introduce this family to the creator of the bear. When presented with his ACPA Cleft Courage Bear, Cooper clutched it to his denim overalls, quickly forgetting the ball. It was the first time Karen witnessed a child receiving a bear. I am not sure who was more excited, Cooper or Karen. The moment captured ACPA’s mission to create a world where people with cleft and craniofacial conditions thrive.