By: Sharon Kellaher
Rufus, the teddy bear with diabetes, is full of love, but was born out of anger. Carol Cramer, the Lake Zurich, Illinois, mother who sewed the first Rufus bear, was inspired by the exasperation that followed her son Brian’s diagnosis with diabetes at age 3.
“I was angry because my son had to take on such a strong sense of bravery. He had to be even more brave than me,” recalls Carol. “Children should not have to endure taking on the role of hero. It just hurt me so much.”
Carol wanted to help her son with his feelings upon diagnosis, so she bought him a teddy bear and sewed patches on all of the bear’s injection sites and finger tips, where he would have to poke himself. Brian named the bear Rufus, and they began to face the world of diabetes together. Rufus helped Brian to not feel alone or different.
“Everyone loves a teddy bear, just for being a teddy bear, just as people love children just for being children,” says Carol. “Rufus helped to let Brian know that a child with diabetes is no more or less lovable a child. There are no labels. You are who you are because that’s who you were created to be.”
Sew 15,000 Teddy Bears?
Because Rufus helped Brian feel loved, Carol thought that other children, upon first being diagnosed, would also love a teddy bear with diabetes.
“When your child is first diagnosed, you and the child have to take in very scary terms-blindness, shots, pokes, you can’t eat this-and it’s hard to tell with young children what they’re thinking.”
Carol approached the hospital where Brian was educated and, borrowing against her own life insurance policy, bought over 1300 bears, sewed the patches on all of them, and donated them to the hospital.
But Carol knew she could not afford many more, and needed some help. She called the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, where she was set up with corporate sponsorship from Bayer Corporation. Bayer then ordered 15,000 bears.
“How am I going to sew 15,000 bears?” Carol thought.
But good luck seemed to be following Carol. She was in the parking lot of a toy store when she saw a woman open her car trunk. Inside were dozens of teddy bears. Thinking this woman must be a sales representative, Carol approached her with the Rufus story. The woman said that her employer, Russ Berrie and Company, would probably be interested, because Russ Berrie himself has type 1 diabetes. Russ Berrie and Company is now manufacturing both Rufus and Ruby, the female bear.
Money Goes to JDF
Carol, along with Berrie, the JDF, Bayer, and Medic Alert (which donates little bear-sized identification bracelets for Rufuses and Rubys) now reports that Rufus has become an international bear, sold throughout the United States and the world. From the $25 cost for Rufus or Ruby, which includes a book telling the bear’s story, $10 is donated to the JDF.
With the help of Rufus, Brian, now age 7, is healthy, both physically and emotionally, according to Carol. She hopes that all children who get a Rufus or Ruby bear will, like Brian, see hope in their futures.
Rufus and Ruby are available through Fifty 50 Pharmacy at (800) 746-7505. Bayer is currently running a special promotion with Rufus or Ruby. If you order 150 test sensors for the Glucometer Dex monitor from Fifty50 Pharmacy, Rufus is yours for free.