Meet My Bear Jeff, a company that seeks to help children who have experienced trauma in their early lives. My Bear Jeff is a buy one give one for teddy bears, giving back to kids who’ve gone through trauma. The bears provide a sense of comfort when they may not have it otherwise and a community opportunity to giveback.
In 2015, founder, Rachel Cohen was living in Southeast Asia when she saw the extreme trauma kids go through every day. When Rachel came back, she realized trauma was a growing issue even in her own city.
In the US alone, over 34 million kids have experienced at least one form of trauma. “Feeling safe, secure and having connection are foundational needs for healthy brain development.” – Rachel
To support the kids, Rachel had the idea to sell teddy bears as a buy one, give one model. For each bear purchased, one would go to a child who experienced trauma. My Bear Jeff was born!
“While we can’t stop trauma, the bears can provide a sense of comfort.” – Rachel
In just four months, Rachel went from idea, to finding a manufacturing partner, creating a prototype, and partnering up with local Kansas City nonprofits to bring this idea to life!
Below is an interview with the founder of My Bear Jeff, Rachel Cohen.
What inspired you to start My Bear Jeff?
It was from the intersection of several personal experiences. The first being a rare heart diagnosis at the age of 4 and recovering from a high-risk procedure that could have cost me my life. The second came from my time in Southeast Asia working with children who were dealing with extreme trauma every day. When I returned home I had a pure, burning desire to support these kids. I wanted to be there for them through everything they went through but how? Teddy bears were impactful to me as a child and that’s when the idea came to me to start a buy one, give one teddy bear company.
Why the name Jeff?
Jeff means peace. That was the name of one of my big bears (which was truly my dream bear). Each bear comes with a name tag “My Bear _____” so each person/child can name their bear to make it their own.
How has the reaction from children been when they receive a bear?
Kids light up when they see the bears – they love them! They grab it and squish it as tight as they can. They love the soft texture, and, their favorite part is the mouth. Most bears that size don’t have an actual mouth so it adds a piece of curiosity.
The heart stitched on each bear has a very real purpose to it. Can you share the story of what that heart means?
Yes! When I was 4 years old, I was diagnosed with a rare heart condition. The options were to do a high-risk procedure or possibly live till I was 12/13. We chose to proceed with the procedure and I’m alive today because of it. That experience really marked me and made me feel like I could get through anything. It also made me feel I was given a second chance at life and ignited a huge passion to impact those around me.
What nonprofits do you work with for the give back model for My Bear Jeff?
Children’s Mercy, Kids TLC and Front Porch Alliance. There are a few others we will likely bring on board later this year including the hospital where I had my procedure and an organization in the foster care system.
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