Since January of 2001, over 10,000 custom-made GUND teddy bears have brought smiles to the faces of children as part of the Cleft Palate Foundation’s Cleftline™ Bears project. The project aims to help children cope with the questions and anxiety they experience from having facial differences such as cleft lip and palate. Each bear has been custom-made with stitches across its upper lip and a tag attached to the ear with the Foundation’s toll-free number where families can call for information about cleft lip and palate.
The collaborative project included in-kind and financial contributions from the GUNDCorporation, and design and development by the Cleft Palate Foundation. To order the bears for your own special person, download and complete the order form (see top of page) and email, mail, or fax it to the Cleft Palate Foundation. (Email, mailing address, and fax number can be found on the form.)
Cleftline™ Bears “provide unique emotional support.”
The project was conceived by Karen LeClair of Chapel Hill. In 1989 Karen, an adult affected by cleft lip and palate, attended a meeting addressing the concerns of affected patients and families. It was there that she saw a doll with sewn stitches across its upper lip and felt that the doll would have helped her cope with her facial difference as a child. CPF Executive Director Nancy Smythe said, “Karen started collecting donated bears soon afterwards and personally hand-sewed the stitches on over 300 bears. Her dedication, hard work and positive project evaluations led to CPF’s interest in obtaining funds to implement the project on a much larger scale.” As a result of Karen’s early efforts, project coordinators received substantial positive feedback from the children and families who received the original bears that Karen hand-sewn.
The feedback from parents has illustrated that the bears provide unique emotional support for the child and help them express and understand the feelings they have about themselves and the treatment process. Carmen, age 6, was born with cleft lip and palate and received one of Karen’s original bears. According to his parents, “Even though it’s a stuffed toy, Carmen relates to it and feels he’s not the only one with a cleft. It builds his self-esteem and he has even shown it to teachers and relatives.” Likewise, the parents of Barry, age 7, state, “The bear gives us an opportunity to explore Barry’s feelings about the bear’s appearance and condition and then monitor our son’s feelings about himself. Anything that can enhance a positive self image for children with clefts is invaluable.”“I am delighted to see my dream become a reality,” says Karen. “My family, friends and the Cleft Palate Foundation have all supported me for more than 10 years. And now, through the generosity of GUND, we have been able to make a quantum leap in bringing happy faces to thousands of children.”
If you are interested in supporting CPF’s Cleftline™ Bear Fund, please visit our donation page here.