A ‘Beary’ Unique Gift

Nina Gaston, 54, was losing her eight-year battle with cancer but felt it was important to leave a special memory for her only grandchild, Jack. She and the three-year-old were close, says Nina’s husband, Jim.

Nina and Thrieza Zapanta, medical social worker for NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement, came up with an idea: a special teddy bear made just for Jack.

Veronica Wertz, Dream of a Lifetime coordinator for NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement, brought Nina pictures of various teddy bears available from Build a Bear in Fairfield, and she selected one. Nina, a native of Kentucky and an Air Force veteran, helped out by giving Veronica some of her clothes from which a special outfit would be fashioned by Hospice nurse Donna Lee. Donna is an expert seamstress and she volunteered to recreate a Kentucky T-shirt and hat for the tiny bear. An anonymous Dream Maker donated funds to purchase the bear and extra clothing, which included an Air Force uniform in honor of Nina’s service, and Build a Bear donated gift certificates so that Nina’s grandson could pick out other outfits, as well.

The bear was also equipped with a recording device so that Nina could leave a message for her grandson, but she was not able to record it before her health took a turn for the worse. “At first I was a bit upset about that,” says Jim, “but then I realized, what would you say?”

The special bear, dressed in its Air Force uniform, was delivered to Nina just hours before she passed away, and then the bear was given to Jack. “The Kentucky outfit is awesome,” Jim says. “They were really able to take the shirt and hat and size it down so that it fit the bear.”

Jack has asked about his grandmother in the months since, Jim notes, “and we tell him, ‘remember the bear? Remember the story about the bear?’”

Dream of a Lifetime

Gino Goodman, Nancy Orloff, Frances Demerin and Nina Gaston and their families were recipients of the NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement’s Dream of a Lifetime program that grants wishes of the terminally ill. Begun in 2009, this is one of the few programs nationwide that fulfill the final dreams of adults.

To find out more about this special program and its rules and guidelines, call (707) 646-3575.

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