Teddy bear therapy

Published 8:00 am Thursday, September 3, 2009

A love of sewing and a desire to find something rewarding to occupy her time has led Lorene Ingvalson to make quite a difference at the Worlein Funeral Home.

The 85-year-old from Austin recently started making handmade teddy bears that are given to children who come with parents during services.

Ingvalson, who picked up sewing from her mother when she was young, has made about 80 bears since June.

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“It’s really been something,” she said.

In addition to giving back to children and families coping with death, Ingvalson has used the hobby to cope with a loss of her own — her husband passed away last summer as the couple neared 60 years of marriage.

“This is kind of good therapy,” Ingvalson said. “You make an activity for yourself. You’re not sitting around.”

The idea to make teddy bears came from Mary Kittelson, the home’s community services director.

About a year ago, the home replaced some old drapes, leaving a bunch of unused fabric sitting downstairs.

Kittelson had known Ingvalson for a while — and knew she was a good sewer — so she asked her if she’d like to make teddy bears.

“The lightbulb kind of turned on,” Kittelson said.

Since then, Ingvalson has used the yards of fabric to make the unique bears. Each one has a little different look, size and “personality,” she noted.

Kittelson said the bears have really been a good way to at least let children leave the home with a happy feeling — even if they don’t quite comprehend what death means.

“It’s been great,” Kittelson said of the two dozen or so bears given out. “Kids have loved them.”

And it’s not just kids who love them — Kittelson said parents are often relieved that there is something there for their young ones.

“Parents say, ‘Whew, something to hold during the service,’” Kittelson said.

Jenny Chose of Kasson agrees.

Her grandfather passed away earlier this summer, and she took her 5-year-old daughter Abbi to the service at Worlein’s.

“She was really close to both of my grandparents,” Chose said of her daughter.

“It just didn’t feel right to not have her here.”

Chose said she was very happy to see her daughter get a small gift.

“I think it’s a nice gesture,” she said. “For (Abbi), it was more of a fun thing.”

Chose said the free bears tie in to the family atmosphere at the home — as does reaching out to Ingvalson.

“I think it’s wonderful (for Ingvalson),” Chose said. “She’s doing something for a whole different generation.”

And Ingvalson said she’ll continue making bears for the younger generation for a while — she has materials at home right now ready to be stuffed, sewn and sent to the home.

“As long as they want them, I’ll do it for them,” Ingvalson said.