CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — Plenty of teddy bears have attended church services in the hands of little ones, but not every teddy bear gets to be blessed.
Nearly 2,000 teddy bears were blessed at South Shore Christian Church as part of the sixth annual Teddy Bear Sunday — an event put on by the Homicide Survivors Support Group as a way of keeping alive the memories of loved ones they have lost.
The bears are given to officers with the Corpus Christi Police Department so they can hand the bears out to children who have witnessed crimes, or whose parents are victims of homicide, rape or abuse.
Vilma Garcia joined the support group after her daughter's death in 2008. The 25-year-old was killed by her ex-boyfriend, her mother said.
"I always thought I was by myself," she said. "But I'm not. There are so many people that need support and it has helped me realize that I'm not alone in this world."
Along with the compassion and direction the Homicide Survivors Support Group gave her, volunteering her time to collect bears helps keep her daughter's memory alive.
"I never want my daughter to be forgotten and giving the bears is a way to do that," she said.
Donna Watkins, who founded the Homicide Survivors Support Group after her brother was killed in 1989, started the teddy bear event as something positive for the community.
"Teddy Bear Sunday is something healing for the support group to do as a legacy in their loved ones name," she said.
The 1,864 bears collected were blessed and given to the Corpus Christi Police Department at Sunday's morning service.
"The person you lose is never gone," homicide Lt. Isaac Valencia said to members of the support group and church. "Those are souls out there that we need to put a voice to."
Watkins said she does the Sunday event each year to keep something positive going.
"They need that support to show they're not alone," she said.
Garcia said a lot of women have been abused and their children who witnessed it can become untrusting.
"But it can be so comforting to a child when the police officer goes over and gives them a teddy bear," she said.
Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times