A 6-year-old girl lost “Teddy,” her teddy bear, in Glacier National Park a little over a year ago. Now, seemingly against all odds, Teddy has been returned to the girl — who was given the bear by her adoptive parents while she was still in an Ethiopian orphanage.
The reunion comes thanks to a thoughtful park ranger and a dedicated family friend.
“It’s a story of hope and kindness, and of an answer to prayer,” Ben Pascal, the girl’s father and senior pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, told Travel Awaits.
How The Story Began
Teddy the teddy bear was the first gift Pascal and his wife Addie sent to the girl — Naomi — while she was in the Ethiopian orphanage before she was adopted in 2016.
“He kept her company until she could come home for good,” the Pascals told Glacier National Park staff.
Naomi and Teddy traveled the world together, including trips to Ethiopia, Rwanda, Croatia, and Greece, Pascal told the Associated Press. Last year, when Pascal and his kids traveled to Montana to visit Glacier National Park in October, Teddy again accompanied Naomi.
When Pascal and a friend went on a hike in Glacier, Terri Hayden, a family friend who lived nearby, watched the kids. They were almost back to Hayden’s home when Naomi realized Teddy was missing, the Associated Press story explains.
That night it snowed, which resulted in the park being closed at higher elevations and also prevented a search for Teddy.
A Ranger’s Hunch
As park rangers began their postseason clean-up, they discovered a small, soaking wet teddy bear buried in the snow. Usually, items such as a teddy bear sitting in snow would be thrown away, but Ranger Tom Mazzarisi had other plans.
“Bears are my passion,” Mazzarisi posted on Glacier’s Facebook page. “I just didn’t have the heart to throw it away. There was something special about this teddy bear, so I adopted him and named him Caesar.”
Teddy/Caesar spent the winter in Mazzarisi’s cabin, and when Mazzarisi returned to work in the spring, he “immediately put him on the dash of my patrol truck.”
Teddy/Caesar was a “perfect mascot,” Mazzarisi told the Associated Press. The bear then accompanied Mazzarisi on his travels around the national park.
The Answer To A Prayer
While Teddy/Caesar was driving around Glacier and keeping Mazzarisi company while he completed his duties as a ranger, Hayden, the Pascals’ family friend, never forgot about Naomi and her missing bear.
When Hayden and some family members returned to Glacier in late September, they kept a sharp lookout for Teddy.
“I’m a woman of faith,” Hayden said in the Associated Press article. “That morning, I said, ‘OK Lord, if this bear is around, please put that bear in my path and let me come home with that bear today.’”
Hayden had planned to hike a specific trail that day, but the trail was closed due to bear activity. That’s when Hayden and her family spied Teddy sitting in Mazzarisi’s truck at the trailhead.
The only problem was that Mazzarisi had the day off and wasn’t around.
Fortunately, Hayden was able to find some other rangers. Once she explained the situation, the rangers were happy to help.
“Rangers assisted in retrieving Teddy, insisting that he was going home to his little girl,” the Glacier Facebook post recounts. “One ranger waited by the vehicle until another returned from the backcountry, while another ranger tried to find the truck’s keys. Finally, another ranger personally delivered the bear” to Hayden — along with a Junior Ranger badge and a ranger hat.
A Happy Reunion
Hayden then shipped Teddy, the badge, and the hat to Naomi. As you would expect, Naomi was “really excited” when she got Teddy back, Hayden told the Associated Press.
Pascal told TravelAwaits that he and his family look forward to speaking with Ranger Mazzarisi and hopefully meeting with him.
“We will be meeting with Mazzarisi for a Zoom call,” Pascal said. “Someday, it would be great to make it back to Glacier so we can meet with him face-to-face.”
News of Naomi losing Teddy, Mazzarisi finding and caring for the bear, Hayden’s commitment to finding Teddy, and the eventual reunion between Naomi and Teddy has received more than 12,000 “Likes” on Glacier’s Facebook page and has been shared more than 2.2 thousand times. The story has also been covered by news outlets across the U.S.
The questions then, are: What is it about this story that people find so interesting and why do they share it with others?
“Many people had a beloved stuffed animal as a kid, and some have lost that stuffy never to be found, so I think it strikes a chord in people’s hearts to hear about a happy ending when it comes to a beloved stuffed animal,” Pascal told TravelAwaits. On a larger scale, the story “shows humanity’s need for some good news about hope, kindness and the lost being found. It also shows there is good in the world. There are good people, and there is a good God.”