Family loses toy elephant carrying son’s ashes on Disney trip

Author: Aliza Chasan / CBS
Published: Updated:
Bruce the elephant was lost during a family trip to Florida, mom Liz Atkinson said. He belonged to her late son and held a small bag of his ashes. LIZ ATKINSON/FACEBOOK

A mom is desperate to find a lost stuffed elephant holding her late son’s ashes.

Liz Atkinson said Bruce, the elephant, came with the Iowa family on a trip to Florida. She posted about the lost elephant Friday on Facebook along with a plea to help her find the toy. A small bag of her son’s ashes was inside a pouch on Bruce’s back.

“I feel sick, struggling to sleep. I’m desperate,” she wrote.

Atkinson’s son Gabryel suffered from a chromosome 9 abnormality, she said. He was given the stuffed elephant when he was in the NICU. Gabryel had it with him for more than 50 surgeries, procedures and hospitalizations before his death.

“He slept with it every night and since his passing my husband and I have had it in our bed with us,” Atkinson wrote.

Gabryel died last year, just 16 days before what would have been his 8th birthday, Atkinson said. For his birthday this year, the family went to Disney along with their surviving son, Sebastyan.

They were in Cocoa Beach and stayed at Beachside Resort from April 22-24, Atkinson said. Bruce the elephant accompanied the family on a parasailing trip on April 24. Sebastyan held him on the boat.

“This is where the trip gets hazy in my memory due to emotions and grief,” Atkison wrote on Facebook. “Thinking back, I don’t recall Sebastyan bringing him back to our vehicle.” After parasailing, Atkinson didn’t see Bruce, though she thought the elephant, along with her son’s ashes, were somewhere among their belongings.

Next, the family went to Disney Springs and stayed at the Palazzo in Kissimmee until April 25, Atkinson wrote. They stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation until April 30.

“Once we got home May 1 I searched EVERYWHERE,” she wrote on Facebook. “Every bag. He’s gone. I’ve called each of the places listed above and filled out a lost and found form on Disney’s page. No one has found him.”

Since posting her plea to Facebook, she’s learned that cameras at the marina in Cocoa Beach show her son carrying Bruce into the family’s vehicle, Atkinson said. When the car pulled away, the stuffed elephant was not on the ground.

“I never in a million years would’ve thought that struggling with grief would have impaired my memory enough to forget him somewhere and I tried very hard to make sure he was always in a bag or in my arms so this didn’t happen,” she wrote.

Atkinson is asking people to share her post to spread the word. She’s asked anyone with information to contact her.

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