Artist Beth Wagner, art instructor for Boyertown High School, poses with the YMCA Bear Fever bear, a memorial to a mother and daughter who frequented the YMCA and were killed in a car accident.
To some it could seem to be a harmless prank-- stealing a little baby bear statue from the Boyertown, Pa. YMCA. But to everyone who knows what the bear symbolizes, the theft is far more than a practical joke. The act forced many to relive an accident that took two young lives 5 years ago … it was like ripping their hearts out all over again.
"I feel like I’ve been robbed twice!" Lisa Beers said. Beers lost both her 22-year-old niece, Kristin Beers and her 5-year-old grandniece, Angelina Lopez, of Boyertown in a fatal car accident in 2004. After the devastating loss, the community set up a memorial fund, the Gilbertsville Center YMCA came up with a plan, and local high school students built two life-size memorial bears in memory of Kristin and Angelina.
The mother and baby bear stood in front of the YMCA, where Angelina used to play each day, symbolizing the love between mother and daughter, the kind of love that lasts forever, according to the YMCA.
“They were something permanent,” Lisa said. “The bears gave our family and friends some hope that Kristin and Angelina would remain ever- present in some part.”
But on June 24, the baby bear was stolen.
Walking into work, YMCA employee Tessi Melchior said she was horrified to find the mother bear standing alone. “I could see immediately that the baby bear was gone,” she said. “I was very saddened by it, and angry that someone could steal something that was meant to be a memorial… The bears were put in their memory so that the community would never forget them. They could come and see them whenever they wanted.”
Boyertown is known for its “bear fever” with its nearly 50 bears scattered throughout the town. But those two bears at the YMCA were particularly special, Melchior said. “They are two of the few if not the only bears that represent two people that have passed,” she said.
Friends and family hope the baby bear will be reunited with its mother. If you have information on this case, you are asked to call 610-367-YMCA.