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Business Profile: The Hugging Bear

by Melissa Dumont

Donna Henry makes teddy bears. But not just your average, everyday teddy bears. She connects with people who want something special. They have left-over fabric from very important occasions or events that they want to re-purpose into memorable gifts. Some of the fabrics she has worked with have come from baby blankets, wedding dresses, army uniforms, and other important textiles.

Donna, who lives in Whitinsville, has been sewing since her parents gave her a sewing machine for Christmas when she was twelve. When her son was born fourteen years ago, she wanted to stay home with him but needed an extra source of income. For several months, she worked with a friend who had a teddy bear business. Her friend wanted to go on to other adventures, so she graciously gave Donna the business, which Donna has been doing on her own now for twelve years. The first teddy bear she made was for a friend. It was made out of his army uniform for his newborn son.

...more than 4,500
bears...each teddy
accompanied by
one of four poems
she has written

It has turned out to be a family enterprise, as her mother and father, as well as her husband and son, all help out. Her dad in particular loves to come over and stuff bears. Her daughters sometimes help sew the bears. Donna has made more than 4,500 bears over the years, and each is accompanied by one of four poems she has written. She keeps meticulous records of everything she does. So when a customer called, frantic because the card with the poem had gotten lost, Donna checked her records, and sure enough, she was able to retrieve the correct poem. 

One touching story is the way Donna made a teddy bear out of a grandmother’s wedding dress, as a gift to the granddaughter on her 16th birthday. Another very poignant story is about a bear she made for a girl who loved her dog. Donna used the dog’s bed as material for the teddy bear. The girl loved it. Tragically, this young lady died of a brain aneurism in her early twenties. Her teddy bear accompanied her to her grave.

Donna has met amazing people through her work. Jack Keaney, who had lost his wife Carol, gave Carol’s clothes to Donna, and requested twelve bears. Donna made a beautiful selection of teddies. Jack was so happy, that in gratitude he had calendars made up with pictures of the bears for each month, and gave one to Donna.

The Hugging Bear comes in two sizes: Large at 18 inches tall and small at 15 inches tall. Both have moveable arms and legs and come with a laminated heart-shaped card inscribed with the customer’s choice of one of four poems. The best clothes to use, according to Donna’s brochure, are button-down shirts, sweat shirts or bathrobes, flannel shirts or nightgowns, fleece shirts and T-shirts. One adult size shirt makes one large bear. One long robe makes about three or four bears.

Donna, a true entrepreneur, has sent bears into forty-six states and three foreign countries. She hopes by the end of the year to add the last four of the United States to her list. Who knows, she may even invite you to come see her business and her bears up close and personal at 76 Suzanne Drive, Whitinsville. Or call her at 508-234-5847.