Overwhelmed by joy, 7-year-old Lily Rottenborn couldn’t help but scream when she laid eyes on the brown teddy bear.
Monday’s meeting with "Waldo" was a reunion of sorts — and one that many helped bring to fruition.
Lily and her family were vacationing in the Midwest last month when the Waldo Canyon fire destroyed their home in Mountain Shadows. Among the losses was a stuffed bear Lily received five years earlier while battling a stomach flu at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital. Lily named the stuffed toy “Hospital Bear.”
“That was the one she always played with,” Lily’s older sister Anna said. “She ate with her, slept with her, played with her and did everything with her.”
Upon learning of the fire’s destruction, Lily’s parents called the hospital and asked if any bears like Lily’s old one remained. The stuffed teddy bears had been replaced by panda bears in recent years, and none was to be found.
Finally, as the search continued, St. Francis physical therapist Julie Cox found one of the bears on her desk.
“I happened to have one in my office that I had had in there for several years,” she said. “I never would have thought three years ago that I would use that little bear for something as significant as this, that it would replace something so valuable to somebody else.”
The new bear, Waldo, made several trips between Penrose and St. Francis, with staff posting photos on Twitter for the Rottenborn family to follow.
“She was super excited, she was following her bear on Facebook and crocheting necklaces for her,’” said Lily’s mom, Carrie Rottenborn. “She said, ‘I wanna show her I’m gonna be a good mother.’”
On Monday, Lily was introduced to Waldo. The young girl quickly slipped a hospital bracelet on her new bear and then printed “Hospital Bear” on the bracelet as a reminder of her old friend.
“I was so happy that I was getting another bear … she’s so cute. I love her!” Lily said.
While the bear has been replaced, the Rottenborns still are without a home. They plan to sign a lease on a rental this weekend, as friends and family help them move in and bring in trailers full of furniture that has been collected.
“It’s amazing, it’s just amazing,” said Jim Rottenborn, Lily’s father. “I took a picture when our house burned down and it was two suitcases. Now we have enough to fill our house, and it’s just the generosity of the community.
“It makes it easier to care for those around us. It’s made us reach out and help everyone out. It’s really contagious.”