Find out about a program helping children in Africa.
Updated: Friday, 27 Feb 2009, 6:55 AM CST
Published : Thursday, 26 Feb 2009, 5:33 PM CST
MANITOWOC - Stitch by stitch, Phyllis Schmidt knits a teddy bear.
"I'm a little slow this morning, because my hand is a little bit stiff," said the 93-year-old from Manitowoc.
With only a few more rows to finish, "then it'll be ready for stuffing," she said.
The bears will be sent to children Schmidt's never met, in a place she's never been.
"I hope a little girl will get this one. I don't think a boy would appreciate pink do you?" asked Schmidt as she worked on her current project.
Every bear Schmidt makes is sent to children in Africa affected by HIV or AIDS.
"You hear about how bad that is over there - thousands of children that are dying, or have AIDS or parents who died of AIDS - they're in orphanages," said Schmidt.
The Manitowoc native dedicates about five or six hours a day to making the teddy bears for the Mother Bear Project, a non-profit organization based in Minneapolis.
"Their lives are hard, and much of their childhood seems to be lost and these bears are a way to connect them again. Something to cuddle, something to play with," said Amy Berman, who founded the project.
To date, the organization has distributed nearly 37,000 bears knitted by people from across the U.S.
"I hope they enjoy them, that they love them. It helps bring a little happiness to their lives, so it's all I can do for them," said Schmidt.
Schmidt's knitting accomplishments have earned her special recognition by the Mother Bear Project: a pin made in Africa.
"You get one when you complete 100 bears. It's the 100 Bear Club," explained Schmidt.
Along with the pin was a letter explaining how much the bears mean to the children. One child dying of AIDS even asked to be buried with her bear because, she said, "it's my only friend."
"It's really kind of heartbreaking. Makes you go a little faster to knit a few more," said Schmidt.
Schmidt says as long as her health and her hands hold out, she'll keep going.
"I hope to complete another 100 in a year if possible."