My name is Kaitlyn Dart. I am the creator of the Non-Profit Organization “Warrior Bears”. I have been growing up as your typical all American Girl. My dad served in the Marines back in the 70s, my mom was a missionary, my brothers all played sports and I was that awkward kid with a bigger mission in life than video games, drinking and partying.
I was raised in a pretty quiet neighborhood. Our neighborhood’s population was all Active Duty, Reserves, or Veterans of our United States Military. Not only did I live in a neighborhood filled with some of our country’s heroes but I was related to some as well. Like I said before, my dad served as a Marine. One of my cousins served in the Army, another cousin of mine served in the Air Force and so on and so forth.
I grew up watching them all struggle as they returned from all over the world. Most people wouldn’t understand but just because you can’t see their pain, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I’ve been told that even a simple letter while overseas helps ease the pains and fears of being away from home. It wasn’t until I was about 8 or 9 years old that I saw the difference my letters were making. Those simple kid-letters reduced their chances of having Depression. As they came home one by one some of them started showing signs of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The things that would calm them down were as simple as a stuffed animal sometimes. That is where my mission became even more clear than before.
It is hard seeing those around you struggle, but when you think about how many others struggle the same way, it is devastating and I knew I had to do something. Towards the beginning of 2013 my mother and I went to visit my Great Aunt in Oregon. She loves to quilt and wanted to show us her favorite Quilting Shop that her best friend owns. When we went into the Quilting shop we saw small handmade teddy bears. There they were right in front of me, the golden ticket the answer to my prayers. As soon as I saw the handmade bears I asked to be taught how to make the bears and purchased tons of double quilt squares. I also found a small poem she wrote and edited it to my liking this is when I started making the bears. Each bear is handmade wrapped in a doubled thick quilt with the last name of its parent sewn above the poem/prayer on the back.
Each bear would have their job’s creed or song with it. Of course I write a personalized letter for each receiving Soldier so they have a little piece of home. So what did I do? I made 50 bears. Before I knew it, all of our bears were adopted out to our U.S. Military all over the world. Word about our bears spread quickly and now we have a waiting list for Soldier’s wanting bears as well!
I have been doing this all out of my personal pocket which I don't mind but things are getting tight as I near my Final years of high school and such. Each bear costs about $5.00 to make plus the shipping rates for in and out of country... We are always in need for supplies and we do appreciate donations! For every 5 dollars another bear can be made and prepared for its journey into another American Soldier’s life. Belief it or not, these bears can save lives. For those men and women overseas who start to lose hope, these bears remind them that we back home, have not for a second forgotten about them and that we love and support them. These bears reduce chances of Depression, help ease PTSD Attacks, and help keep soldiers from letting the worst hours get the best of them.
For my mission to continue on we need funding!! Anything we can get helps but our current goal is to raise $1,000 to send out the bears we still have waiting to be sent (due to running out of money), making more bears, and buying more supplies like thread, ribbons (to wrap around the quilted bears) and oddball quilting squares. Even if we don’t reach our goal in the end, all of the money raised will go to making and sending these bears!
In 2010 ,the rates of PTSD through our military was at 25%. There was a rate of 7% for our veterans. At least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression. 120 veterans commit suicide every week (17 a day). 1000 veterans attempt suicide each month. About 20 percent of the U.S. population committing suicide is our Veterans. (1 in every 5). No one wants to see another suffer and no one wants to see someone take their own life.
Our bears really do make a difference. I had a Marine in Afghanistan write to me one day after receiving his bear (requested by one of his closest friends who was overseas with him at the time). In the letter he told me of how hard it had been for him. He said
“Things were getting to be too much for me over here. Yes, I signed up to fight for my country when the need was there but in the past 11 months that I have been in this Sand Box of a place, all I’ve seen is innocent people die. People I couldn’t save. I started to tell myself it was my fault they were dead and if it weren’t for that bear in the mail that day, I would’ve been up in Heaven with all those people.”
The U.S. military makes up a pretty good percentage of our population. If we help our military, we help our Country. It is a chain effect.
We understand that some people cannot donate supplies or money but there are other ways to help! You can share our story with your friends and family on FaceBook, Twitter, maybe in church, at work, a mass email. Spread the word!! Once again, everything helps and we appreciate the time you spent reading this and have a safe blessed day!
Sincerely, Kaitlyn Dart