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Teddy Bear Wishes - Nikki's Legacy

Dear Friends of Build a Bear Workshop,

It is hard to believe that it has been five years this July 4th holiday since our world turned upside down when our fourteen year old daughter, Nikki was diagnosed with a osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer. Nikki was such a healthy, athletic girl, so it was a terrible shock to all of us. She was given the most aggressive chemotherapy and radiation protocals available but the cancer was more aggressive. She fought with the strength and grace of a champion, however, no amount of determination could save our beautiful child. Nikki died just six months after her diagnosis, on New Year's Day 2002.

During Nikki's illness, she saw how little could be done once certain cancers spread, and she knew how aggressive cancer could be in children. She was inspired by how much was being done to fund research for many adult cancers, especially noting that while everyone recognized the pink ribbon for breast cancer, no one recognized the gold ribbon for childhood cancer.

Nikki Nikki began to write letters to advocate for funding pediatric cancer research in December while she was very ill. During that time, just before Christmas, she wanted to get some very special gifts for the doctors and nurses who were caring for her, so she asked if we could go to Build a Bear Workshop. She made ten special furry friends, dressed in scrubs, with her doctors' and nurses' names handwritten on the "bear a scopes." While we were there, she saw the beautiful pink bear, "Hopeful Wishes" with the pink ribbon on her paw. Nikki asked the manager if they had a similar bear for children with cancer. When he kindly said no, she replied, "Well you should, because this store is for kids!".

Ten days after that special outing Nikki died. But her wish was born. Carried by Nikki's strength, I began to write letters. And one of the very first letters I wrote was to Maxine Clark, the founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop. The manager of the West Hartford store encouraged me to email Maxine and tell her of Nikki's wish. It was so important to Nikki that the voices of children with cancer be heard, so when I heard that Build a Bear was going to create a bear for children with cancer I felt Nikki's spirit dancing with joy in my very being. During the past four years, this bear has touched the hearts of many special children. I have been told stories by parents and children alike how this little purple bear has helped some very sick kids get through some very tough moments. There is nothing like a bear hug to know that we are loved.

While meeting with Maxine, we talked about how important funding for research is for so many of children's illnesses. As a pediatric nurse I have worked with so many critically ill children, and have seen the spirit of all of these children inspire all of those their lives touch. Build-A-Bear Workshop has taken that spirit, from all of these special children and created Champ, a bear that will continue to give kids hugs when they need it most. And most importantly, Champ will help continue to fund research that is critical to helping our kids get better. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank Maxine and all of our friends at Build-A-Bear Workshop for giving kids a voice.

With love and gratitude,

Nikki's Mom and the Giampolo family

Click here to read more about Nikki.
Visit Nikki's tool kit to see how you can get involved and make a difference.