* Classmates of late IAHS student honors her memory with teddy bear giveaway

It didn’t take long for Itawamba Agricultural High School teacher Lori Holland to devise a way to honor the memory of her former student, Rebecca Jarrell.

Teddy bears. Teddy bears are cute and cuddly; they’re symbols of warmth, love and comfort. Teddy bears were perfect.

“Teddy bears are cute and cuddly. Who doesn’t love a teddy bear?” Holland said.

Just days after Jarrell’s death in a head-on collision, Holland had the students in her Career Pathway’s class begin collecting teddy bears for a program called Bears for Becca. The idea behind the program is simple by design:

1.) Collect slightly-used teddy bears

2.) Spruce those bears up a bit

3.) Give the bears good homes in the loving arms of sick or needy children

“I tried to think of something that would be easy to maintain,” explained Holland, who also founded the program’s co-sponsor, The Moody Blues Elvis Presley Fan Club. She wanted to ensure that, even after all of Jarrell’s classmates have graduated, the program could carry on with little difficulty.

Anyone can donate a bear, although Holland asks that they be gently used. Students clean them up and attach a tag to each. Each tag features a short dedication to Jarrell and asks the recipient to pass on an act of kindness.

“We ask the recipient of the bear to pay it forward, to keep the generosity going,” Holland said. That’s an important part of the program, Holland said, and one that truly honors Jarrell’s generous spirit.

“That’s the kind of person Rebecca was,” Holland said. “She was one of those people who was the first to volunteer. She always gave of her time and herself.”

The program is already doing loads of good. Stuffed bears (and a few other critters) are scattered throughout Holland’s classroom, waiting to find good homes. Many already have.

“There’s always a sick child we’re hearing about,” she said. “The requests are already coming in as fast as we can get the bears.”

The first day the group began collecting bears (the first bears were dedicated by Jarrell’s father, Michael), they gave them all away.

It’s a good start to what Holland is hoping will be a legacy.

“I think Rebecca would have loved this project,” Holland said. “It fits her personality.”

Holland’s students, many of whom were Jarrell’s classmates, nodded in agreement.

“She was always happy and smiling,” said classmate Kayla Norris. “It’s fun to do something that makes somebody else smile.”

“Her light shined brightly,” added Kristin Williams. “We just want to see her light shine on through others.”

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