Mama Bear has been found! Stolen teddy bear with recording of mother's last message returned to owner
'Mama Bear's home,' says woman reunited with irreplaceable Build-A-Bear on Tuesday
After a four-day disappearance that caught the attention of locals, celebrities and international media craving a happy ending, a teddy bear with a dying mother's final message to her daughter has been safely returned to its owner.
Mara Soriano said two strangers found the stolen, plush toy, which contains an audio recording her mother made before she died of cancer last year, and brought it back to her late Tuesday.
The custom Build-A-Bear, which she named Mama Bear, was in "perfect condition" aside from missing its signature square glasses.
"She's home," said a beaming Soriano, 28.
"I didn't think she would come back, but she did."
Soriano squeezed the bear's paw, heard the sound of her mother's voice and cried.
"Mama Bear's home," she said.
WATCH | Mara Soriano plays the audio recording of her mother's voice after getting her bear back:
An email from a stranger
Soriano said she was devastated when the bear was stolen while she was moving apartments in Vancouver's West End last Friday.
After days of searching and pleading in the media for the bear's return, Soriano said she received an email from a man on Tuesday who said he had some information about it
"Of course, I jumped on it, because it was a lead," she said.
"I called [CBC News reporter] Deborah Goble because she was the person who broke the story, and I couldn't have done this without her, so I wanted her to be there, too. Plus, she's a grown-up, and I wanted to make sure everybody was safe.
"They brought the bear over to CBC, which was a safe meeting place ... and we did it."
Mara Soriano is desperately seeking this teddy bear stolen in Vancouver's West End. It has a final message from her mother, Marilyn, who died of cancer in 2019. Mara shared this video with <a href="https://twitter.com/cbcnewsbc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@cbcnewsbc</a> <a href="https://t.co/GJYLu7QjK1">pic.twitter.com/GJYLu7QjK1</a>—@liam_britten
Thousands of people on social media shared a photo of the bear after it disappeared, hoping it could be found. Vancouver-born actor Ryan Reynolds offered a $5,000 reward on Twitter, "no questions asked," to the person who returned the toy. TV host George Stroumboulopoulos, another Canadian, said he would match the amount.
Soriano said she gave the men who returned the bear an undisclosed amount of her own money "as collateral," hoping the full reward would come through.
Vancouver: $5,000 to anyone who returns this bear to Mara. Zero questions asked. I think we all need this bear to come home. <a href="https://t.co/L4teoxoY50">https://t.co/L4teoxoY50</a>—@VancityReynolds
In happier news... thank you everyone who searched high and low. To the person who took the bear, thanks for keeping it safe. Vancouver is awesome. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FoundMarasBear?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FoundMarasBear</a> <a href="https://t.co/X7FlyiR89P">https://t.co/X7FlyiR89P</a>—@VancityReynolds
Bear theft on video
Soriano lost the bear as she and her fiancé were unloading their U-Haul van at her new apartment in Vancouver's West End on Friday. A friend had called to say he'd been hit by a van while biking over to help with the move, and Soriano immediately set down her bag — with the bear inside — to go and help.
Frazzled, she forgot to tell her fiancé where she'd left the bag. It was gone within minutes.
Security footage from the building showed a man walking up to the black bag, picking it up and walking away.
Soriano said the men who returned the bear told her they found it in Vancouver's Strathcona Park. She said the men don't want to be identified publicly, and she isn't concerned with an explanation.
"They liberated her," Soriano said of the bear.
Bear is 'the last memory' of mother's voice
Soriano said her mother, Marilyn Soriano, recorded the bear's message for her shortly before going into a hospice. She died in June 2019 at the age of 53.
"At hospice, her voice was different. Much softer. Not the mom I grew up with," she said. "That bear is the last memory I have of her speaking in her normal voice.
"She said that she loved me and she was proud of me and that she'll always be with me."
Soriano, who was born in the Philippines and moved to Vancouver from Toronto five years ago, said the bear also reminds her of home.
"The bear has a message in it in Filipino. It says, 'I love you.'"
With files from Deborah Goble and Liam Britten