Montreal

Zoé Bernard Salois's wish for stuffed bears leaves legacy

What began as a dying child's wish for thousands of stuffed bears has turned into an international campaign to send toys to underprivileged children in developing countries.

Les Péluches de Zoé collects toys for underprivileged children in honour of Bromont, Que., child

Sabrina Michaud decided to collect stuffed bears in honour of Zoé after the little girl died of cancer nearly one year ago. (Radio-Canada)

Zoé Bernard-Salois's dying wish for Christmas in 2013 was to be surrounded by stuffed animals.

Zoé Bernard Salois, centre, and her family got 25,000 toys after Zoé's dying wish was posted on social media. (Radio-Canada)

Quebecers and people from all over the world heard her request, and last year sent the eight-year-old girl from Bromont, Que., more than 25,000 stuffed toys.  

She died of Burkitt's lymphoma a month after her wish was fulfilled.

This year, family friend Sabrina Michaud stepped in to organize a campaign to receive donations of stuffed animals in honour of Zoé.

After Zoé died, her bears were donated to children in Haiti, Guatemala, Africa and in a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon.

Toys for Guatemalan children

"Losing a child is not easy, so the family this year didn’t have the energy to start another campaign," Michaud told Quebec AM host Shawn Lyons on Monday.

She said she didn't expect as many donations as last year because Zoé has since died.

It’s in honour and memory of her, but not for her, Michaud said. She plans to donate the toys to children in Guatemala through another charity that equips children there with school supplies and shoes.

And the bears kept rolling in. So far Michaud has counted 8,000 bears and other toys, and still needs to count the contents of at least a couple of hundred garbage bags filled with toys.

"I just organized it," Michaud said. "But Zoé did all the work last year."

Michaud organized this year's event by herself under the names Les péluches de Zoé. She's hoping for help to keep the toy drive going next Christmas.

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