Saskatchewan

Elementary students give back with hand-sewn bears for YWCA Regina

Ashley Betteridge's Grade 7/8 class is learning to sew, and is giving back this Christmas by hand-sewing teddy bears that will be donated the YWCA Regina.

90 fleece teddy bears created by students at St. Gabriel will be donated on Dec. 21

Elizabeth Johnson poses with her nearly complete bear project. The bear will be donated to the YWCA Regina for Christmas. (Sam Maciag/CBC News)

It's not Santa's workshop, but students at an east Regina elementary school resemble elves at work as they guide threaded needles through brightly coloured blue and purple fleece fabric.

In a week's time, teacher Ashley Betteridge's Grade 7/8 class at St. Gabriel will be finished the hand-sewn teddy bears they will then donate to the YWCA Regina in time for Christmas.

"At first, I thought, 'You think we can sew? Because I don't know how to sew,'" said Grade 7 student Connor Johnson. "But she's teaching us a lot, and I think we can do it."

Betteridge came up with the idea when she realized she could combine an applied arts lesson with the class's service project.

"I'm not a big sewer myself, but I know the teddy bear pattern is very forgiving," she said. "So if we have a couple oopses here and there, teddy bears work out really, really well."

Teacher Ashley Betteridge, surrounded by her Grade 7/8 students and their teddy bear projects at St. Gabriel elementary school in Regina. (Sam Maciag/CBC News)

Between her class, and the other Grade 7 and 8 classes at St. Gabriel, 90 bears will be complete on Dec. 20.

"I feel really good inside because someone else is going to be happy when they get one," said Grade 8 student Desana Grabarczyk.

A teddy bear and a gift like this does provide some comfort to children coming through our doors, to someone who might be struggling. -  Alexis Losie, senior director of operations at YWCA Regina

Kayden Hrynkiw agrees.

"Some people that have had tragedies in their life, we get to help them out and make their life a little better. So instead of just watching, we can help," the Grade 8 student said.

Grade 7/8 teacher Ashley Betteridge helps one of her students with his teddy bear sewing project. (Sam Maciag/CBC News)

Betteridge bought the fabric on Black Friday and cut the patterns out herself. The students are doing the rest. They have learned everything from threading a needle and tying a knot in the end of the thread, to an anchor stitch, a dart and a modified running stitch. 

The ratio of boys to girls is also interesting in Betteridge's class — there are 17 boys and 10 girls. The boys have really embraced it, she said.

Grade 7/8 students at St. Gabriel elementary school in Regina are sewing teddy bears for the YWCA Regina for Christmas gifts. (Sam Maciag/CBC News)

"I had a few of their moms call and say, 'Oh my goodness, I'm so happy they're learning how to sew,," Betteridge said. "One even went home and sewed a button back [onto] his pants all by himself."

The teddy bears are part of a bigger "random acts of kindness" project that Betteridge's students have been participating in this school year. By the end of June, her students will have performed more than 900 acts of kindness.

The YWCA of Regina was thrilled to learn Betteridge and her students chose to focus their efforts on the women and children staying with them.

Alexis Losie, senior director of operations with YWCA Regina, is thrilled Betteridge and her students chose to focus their efforts on the women and children staying with them. (Sam Maciag/CBC News)

"A teddy bear and a gift like this does provide some comfort to children coming through our doors, to someone who might be struggling," said Alexis Losie, senior director of operations at YWCA Regina. 

"There will be some women and families who will be feeling a little extra love knowing that this kind of care was taken when considering a gift from them."

About the Author

Samantha Maciag

Host, CBC Saskatchewan News at 6

Sam Maciag is the host of CBC Saskatchewan News at 6. She's been working as a journalist for more than a decade in Regina. Catch the show weeknights at 6! Have a story idea? Email sam.maciag@cbc.ca. You can also follow her on social media: @sammaciag.

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