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About Bears To Cherish & Me

How I Became a Den Mother...

It happened without my realizing it.


I created the first commemorative bear for a friend grieving the loss of her adult son. I used one of his t-shirts for the body, and when I gave it to her, my friend was deeply moved. That bear represented a tangible connection with him, a memory that she could touch and hold. A little seed of purpose was planted in my heart.


A second opportunity came along, and then a third. What a great little hobby I had here! I embraced each new bear with joy, and with every custom bear I created, my skills and techniques improved. Integrity is important to me; I never take shortcuts because I want each bear to be the absolute best. To me, they are all beautiful and unique.


I received a phone call in late November 2015 that changed my life. Julianne Arthur requested that I make seven custom bears – by Christmas! Her in-laws, Steve and Linda Arthur, had recently been lost in a tragic flash flood while hiking Zion National Park. Julianne wanted a bear for each grandchild, to be crafted from the souvenir t-shirts the Arthurs had collected during their travels. How could I say no? I wasn’t sure I could deliver, but I was determined to try.


To inspire my creativity I asked for photos of Steve and Linda, which I posted in my workroom. By the time the seventh bear was completed, just four short weeks later, I knew the people that had worn these garments. Their presence was with me throughout the process, and I was nearly overwhelmed by the experience of creating something so precious for their family. Without a doubt, these bears would live on long after they left my hands. I realized that I had the ability to bring an extraordinary level of comfort and connection to a family – what a gift! The seed of purpose that had been planted with the first bear was now firmly rooted.


At Julianne’s urging, I set up a Community Facebook page so other families could find me. I called my enterprise Bears to Cherish. Not long after, an article in a local paper sparked dozens of requests for custom-made bears. My heart was so full! I met a representative from every family, learned about the person they had lost, and created a keepsake from the loved one’s clothing. In fact, I usually ended up making a bear for each member of the family!


My little enterprise continued to grow organically as families shared the stories

of their bears. An in-depth article in a regional paper connected me with a wider community, and the response was tremendous. I crafted 80 bears during the next nine months. That’s when I realized I had become a DEN MOTHER, putting my heart and soul into my offspring and sending them into the world to spread joy.


The next step was obvious, but I was afraid to take it. Even though the seedling was flourishing, I didn’t want to declare it a fully-fledged business because I feared losing the personal connection. But it became clear that this enterprise must continue – there was a steady demand for these one-of-a-kind keepsakes. And then I realized that as the business owner, I could control the process, thereby safeguarding the integrity of the mission. So at the beginning of year four, the Bears to Cherish website debuted:

A visit to the site provides a photo gallery (featuring the garments “before” and the keepsake bear “after”) along with personal stories submitted by clients, and an email address for inquiries.


This was only the beginning of my journey, and that there was so much more to come. Bears to Cherish is a gift that I embrace every day. Discovering a talent that I didn’t know I had has given me a platform for growth, for connection, and for sharing my heart beyond anything I could have imagined. Out of a simple, sincere gift for a friend, over 400 ongoing requests for creating custom keepsake bears has evolved. The impact these personalized bears have had on the lives of others truly takes my breath away. I hope that my story inspires others to follow their own passions, because you never know where they will lead.


Harlene Roen

Owner / Creator

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