When a loved one passes, memories and mementos become priceless.

On Friday night, the Justice Coalition presented the families of victims lost to violent crimes and tragic accidents something unique.

Using the clothes regularly work by victims, seamstress Donna Lappin transforms the fabric into a teddy bear fashioned after the deceased person. 

“My mother made teddy bears for Meals on Wheels and Children’s hospitals, and when she passed in 2001, I didn’t want the bears to stop,” Lappin said.

For four years, the Justice Coalition and Lappin have been connecting with survivors to make the comfort bears a reality. Lappin said each bear takes her about three full days. 

“I hope they do bring some joy, though with what they’ve been through I can’t image what these bears can do,” Lappin said. “Before I begin, I research the victim, typically from news articles, and before I start cutting the clothes, I pray over the fabric.”

At Friday’s ceremony, executive director of the Justice Coalition Michael Liles told the victims’ families how poignant holidays can be for grieving families.

Liles became director of the Coalition after losing his own wife Deborah Liles to a violent crime in March. Deborah was a music teacher at San Jose Elementary School. 

“We want people to know if they need us, we are here,” Liles said. “When you think of teddy bears, you think of comfort, love, security. Survivors need all of that.” 

The organization offers support and resources to the victims of violent crimes and is tasked by dedicated volunteers.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson joined in presenting the bears to twenty families, many that endured countless court hearings waiting for justice for their loved one. 

Among those recognized was the family of Keegan Roberts, a father and husband shot earlier this year by his neighbor during a dispute. 

Amari Harley, a 3-year-old boy who died in a park septic tank in October, was remembered  through the stuffed animal bearing playful sharks from a shirt and shorts the toddler wore. 

The family of Ra’Mya Eunice, a 12-year-old killed during a sleepover at the hands of another child, accepted the bear and a Bible inscribed with the victim’s name given to families.

Through tears and smiles, each family honored clutched a new keepsake that captured in part a life lost too soon.

© 2017 WTLV-TV