Mara Soriano was devastated when a Build-A-Bear teddy containing a recording of her late mother's voice was stolen during a hectic move last week.
“I keep picturing it in a (trash) bin somewhere,” the 28-year-old storyboard artist in Vancouver, British Columbia, told TODAY Parents.
But on Tuesday night, Soriano was reunited with the irreplaceable stuffed animal. While speaking with Canada's Global News, Soriano explained that a man contacted her over email saying he had "liberated" Mama Bear from a tent in a homeless camp.
A skeptical Soriano agreed to meet the stranger in a public location.
“He just pulled Mama Bear out of his bag, and I just immediately started crying!” Soriano said. “She was wrapped in a handkerchief, and when he unwrapped it, my knees just buckled. ... I snatched her out of his arms before he could even fully take her out of the handkerchief, and I just hugged her so tightly.”
Soriano's mother, Marilyn Soriano, died of pancreatic cancer in June 2019 at age 53. Just one month before entering hospice care, she surprised her daughter with the custom bear containing recorded messages of love and encouragement.
“Some of it is in Filipino. It’s basically, ‘I love you. I’m proud of you. No matter where you are, I will always be with you,’” Soriano told TODAY Parents when the bear was still missing. “I know it’s a bear, but it kinda feels like losing my mom all over again. I feel like I really let her down.”
The male thief, who was captured on security footage fleeing the scene, also swiped Soriano’s iPad and Nintendo Switch.
“Those other things that were in my backpack aren’t as important,” Soriano said. “The bear had a specific message that was just for me.”
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“Zero questions asked,” Reynolds wrote on Twitter. “I think we all need this bear to come home.”
Dan Levy of “Schitt’s Creek” and “Scrubs” star Zach Braff also encouraged their followers to help in the search.
Soriano said that after Reynolds tweeted about the story, it didn't just snowball — it "avalanched."
“We’ve got people looking into Dumpsters and alleyways because this story is so well-known. All the local shops and restaurants are so eager to help,” Soriano told TODAY Parents. “I’m so floored by all the kindness. This outpouring of support is what's keeping me together. I feel like the whole world needs this bear back.”
This story was originally published on TODAY on July 27, 2020 when the bear was still missing. The story was updated on July 29, 2020.