Tears to Teddy Bears A Story Of Courage

The Teddy Bear collection 2016
Mimi (Donna Kappers) gets a hug from Ava Grace with the teddy bear collection (2016)



One of my favorite things to do in December is to head to my friend, Donna Kappers’ home for her annual Christmas Open House. Many cherished memories involve taking my Mama to Donna’s with me and giving her a chance to visit with Donna’s Mom who came in from Virginia.


This morning, I will grab this cute little teddy bear out from under our tree and head that way. Many things have changed in the past year for The Kappers.  Ava, their granddaughter is now a three-year-old and a big sis to Kamden.  Jenna has graduated from high school and is now a theater student at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Donna, right, welcomes a friend!
My turn to hold Ava’s new baby brother, Kamden.

One thing, however, remains unchanged- they still celebrate the life of Julia Kappers with loving memories along with a collection of stuffed bears. Many of you have joined me here on my Pages From Joan since I first wrote about The Kappers last year.  I am posting their inspiring story here again. We don’t get to choose our life circumstances, but we do get to choose our response to our life circumstances.

More friends arrive bringing sunshine on a rainy day, with more stuffed friends to add to the collection! (2015)
Jenna (left) with sis, Lauren, now a mom of two!

Following is what I wrote in December 2014:

There is something you must always remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Winnie the Pooh This past Monday, I attended the 18th annual Ladies Open House and Coffee hosted by Donna Kappers. Always held on the second Monday of December, it is a time to remember Donna and John’s daughter, Julia, who passed away at the age of nine. It is also a time to collect TEDDY BEARS! They are given to the Cobb County Public Safety Department. These bears are then distributed to children by Firefighters and Policemen after accidents or other traumas. The Kappers also collect bears at John’s annual office party. Countless children are comforted by this generous collection by the Kappers.


If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Winston Churchill 

The date was December 13, 1994, and my daughter Leah was a proud kindergartener. She was in Mrs. Padgett’s and Ms. Sonjia’s room and the class was excitedly getting ready for Christmas, with a fun new daily craft lovingly prepared by these two amazing teachers. The news traveled swiftly around our community and shocked every one of us as we heard it. Leah’s classmate, Lauren, had been involved in a terrible car crash and her big sis, Julia, a fourth grader, had passed away. Lauren walked away from the accident, while her mom, Donna, suffered multiple and extensive injuries. Their car was traveling to the Atlanta Airport to meet up with Grandma who was flying in from Virginia to join them for a school Christmas program that evening.

A drunk driver crossed the median and hit this family’s vehicle head-on. Yes, a person who chose to drink too much and then get behind the wheel changed their life forever that day. Just that statement in itself is a strong warning for everyone who might be tempted to drink and then drive.
Through their devastation, over time, they managed to pick up the pieces. They moved into a new home in the same community, Donna became pregnant with a daughter, Jenna, who is now a senior in high school, and Lauren grew into a beautiful and successful wife and mother, all while this precious family and their surrounding community continued to recall sweet memories of nine-year-old Julia who was lost in this drunk driving accident.

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
love leaves a memory no one can steal.

from a headstone in Ireland


What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Helen Keller

A garden was developed at the entrance of our school and the family has many precious memoirs in their front living room. As time went by, Lauren recalled receiving a pink elephant at the time of the accident and this gave the Kappers family an idea. They would have an annual Teddy Bear Drive with a goal to comfort as many children as possible who found themselves in traumatic circumstances.

Knowing the Kappers family has made my life better as they’ve reminded me through the years to be courageous when faced with a trial.


The pain passes, but the beauty remains.
Pierre Auguste Renoir

And now, they share life with a precious granddaughter, Ava, who just turned two! When all else fails, Ava can just ask Mimi, otherwise known as Donna.

Ava Grace Baldwin, age 2 (2014)
My little bear found his place among the others.
Kamden, Ava’s baby brother, wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas! (2015)

1 thought on “Tears to Teddy Bears”

  1. My niece, Caryss who is 10 says, “Same but different.” I understand the pain the Kappers family endures. Losing a daughter is heart wrenching. Even though our daughter lived to be 30 it’s still the same. But good can always come out of bad. Nice to know they are doing for others & letting her memory mean something.

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