The Bear Story

The ACPA Cleft Courage Bear is a life-long friend to children of all ages. Touching the lives of patients and families for nearly 30 years, this fuzzy companion brings cuddles and smiles at every step of their journey. Whether it’s walking into surgery with a child or comforting a teen on college move-in day, the ACPA Bear is always there.

The journey of the ACPA Cleft Courage Bear began in 1989 when Karen LeClair saw a doll with stitching sewn across its upper lip. As an adult born with cleft lip and palate, Karen couldn’t help but think of how much a toy like that would have helped her. In that moment, she had a vision to create teddy bears with stitches to comfort children.

In just a few months, Karen gathered together the resources she needed to start making bears for children. Karen hand-sewed three stitches on bears of all shapes, colors, and sizes and personally delivered these furry friends to patients with cleft lip and palate. To her surprise, the bears provided comfort to both children and adults. For many people who received the bear, this was the first time they saw someone, or something, that looked like them – and it made all the difference.

Over the years, ACPA Cleft Courage Bears have traveled the world with their forever families and have been with children through countless team care visits. While the bear’s outward appearance may have changed, its ability to brighten up any situation will always stay the same.