SWFL woman’s ‘Teddy Bear Project’ comforts children experiencing homelessness, abuse

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A Port Charlotte woman is helping children with no home – and those being abused at home – by giving them a cuddly gift.

It’s much more than a teddy bear to Mary Ann Markey, Ph.D.

“It’s funny how something as small as a teddy bear or a stuffed animal can make that difference,” Markey said.

She started the “Teddy Bear Project” in 2009 after researching countless cases of children harmed by their own family members.

“These children, they’re abused, they’re abandoned, they’re marginalized,” she said.

“When I saw what was going on with these families and the situations in which these children found themselves, I wanted to be able to do something that would make a difference.”

Markey’s project delivers thousands of bears to children by working with local law enforcement and volunteers like Shelby Lockwood.

“When I saw the post online for the Teddy Bear Project. I got very excited about it and immediately volunteered to help because I feel very deeply about helping children,” Lockwood said.

She even takes the time to make her own stuffed animals.

“I start knitting them and it takes a long time,” she said. “I decided to make them myself because it is a labor of love.”

“We don’t all have a lot of money but we have a heart to help,” Lockwood said.

They’ve already collected boxes and bags full of bears that they hope to safely give away by the holiday season.

If you would like to volunteer or have stuffed animals you’d like to donate, visit the Teddy Bear Project website for information.

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