Category Archives: Friends Count Series

Champ’s luck brings him to Ireland!

Champ arrives with a letter from his last hosts!

By Julia Roberts

After his adventures in Slovenia and traveling over 1800 kilometers/1100 miles, Champ arrived safely in Ireland. He wasn’t too tired to hand deliver a special note from the Križ family, where they declared he had a fabulous time!

Champ landed in the welcoming arms of the Dempsey family, Mum and Dad – Lorraine and Carl – almost 9-year-old twin girls Rianna and Sadhbh and 5-year-old daughter Freya as well as their animal family of 4 rescue dogs and cats! They live in a spectacular mountainous area just one hour south of the capital city, Dublin. Ireland, “the land of a thousand welcomes,” is a small island off the coast of Europe with beautiful landscapes, castles, ancient monuments and towns. Visitors like Champ are always made to feel welcome and just like Champ, the Irish people are well known for travelling to different countries!

Rianna barely survived her birth and suffered brain damage as a result of not enough oxygen.

Freya and Champ hitch a ride!

Her parents were given no hope for her to live and in a heart wrenching decision, took her off of her ventilator. Having said their goodbyes, they requested that Rianna be placed with her twin. It wasn’t long before Rianna’s breathing matched that of Sadhbh. “We even saw her moving her fingers on Sadhbh’s skin. Something powerful had happened and we have never looked back,” say their parents. Rianna also has a heart murmur that resulted in an additional diagnosis of Tetralogy of Fallot; a complex cardiac defect.

Rianna had open-heart surgery when she was nine months old and within a few days, she giggled and rolled on to her tummy for the first time. Rianna has had a lot of intervention over the years due to her diagnoses of spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy with mild dystonia, epilepsy, microcephaly and global developmental delay.

Like many kids with special needs, she has surpassed everyone’s expectations. Rianna uses a walker and wheelchair and has difficulties with mobility and speech. Because she has some sensory issues due to needing more input to feel things, she has a lot of bruises and scrapes, often not even realizing that she’s been hurt.

Rianna and her twinn Sadhbh and Champ visit Rianna’s new school. Champ approves!

All of the interventions, appointments and therapies haven’t stopped Rianna. She loves life and doesn’t live in the shadow of her twin sister Sadhbh, who is developing typically. However, this year has been particularly challenging for Rianna and her family. Rianna was plagued with uncontrollable daily seizures that robbed her of all of her energy and ability to thrive. During this same time, after waiting for a year and trying medications, Rianna was called for surgery on her salivary ducts to reduce her drooling.  While she was in the hospital recovering, the team was able to finally manage the seizures.

Champ at the marathon with Rianna’s mum Lorriane

Luckily for Champ and the Dempsey family, his arrival coincided with Rianna finally feeling better. Her life has returned to her normal busy schedule of appointments so Champ has been a visitor on many road trips. He’s been to the largest children’s hospital in Ireland, to the ENT Surgeon and to Rianna’s disability service, Enable Ireland, for a special clinic with Australian occupational therapists to fit her for a special Lycra suit. A very international day for a very international traveler! Besides being a great friend, Champ also helps with the anxiety that comes with interventions and change of routine for kids with special needs.

Checking out the new chairs at the school with Champ

Champ enjoyed lots of other activities during his visit. He ran in the largest women’s marathon in Dublin (to raise money for Special Needs Parents Association) where Rianna handed out t-shirts. He visited Rianna’s new school with her to meet staff and students. And went to a Build-A-Bear Workshop! The staff was especially excited to meet Champ because the Bear Builder Associates knew about his travels. He got the star treatment and came away with a new t-shirt and stamped passport. The staff gave Rianna a goody bag including a little bear signed by Champ’s friends at the store.

And at the end of each busy day during his visit, Champ snuggled in with the girls and a purple dinosaur and pink bear. The truly remarkable thing about Champ is that his snuggles are international and can be understood in any language. No translation necessary. That really makes him lucky.

Where in the world will Champ go next?

Champ sight-seeing with Rianna’s family


Our Relationship with SKECHERS

By Molly Saunders, Digital Bear

As our Chief Executive Bear always says, you can never have enough shoes. That goes for furry friends, too. We have s been crazy about shoes since we opened our doors in 1997. But our selection of stylish kicks got a lot more fun when we began our partnership with SKECHERS® in 2000.

“Why partner with SKECHERS®?” you ask.

“When smart partners get together and do great things, they reap even greater results,” said Teresa Kroll, Chief Marketing Bear. “[SKECHERS] believed that having stuffed animals wear their shoes was great promotion for them and understood that it could be a win for us both.”

In fact, SKECHERS® was the very first company Build-A-Bear Workshop partnered with.  And it turned out to be a huge success. Since 2000, we’ve sold more than 3.8 million pairs of SKECHERS® shoes for furry friends. That’s a lot of happy feet!

We have had SKECHERS® Twinkle Toes™ for a few years in our stores, and now we are beary excited to be able to offer SKECHERS® Hot-Lights™ and Twinkle Toes Bears. The same thing kids love about the shoes is the same thing they’ll get from the plush.

“Kids that shop at Build-A-Bear Workshop love to wear their own SKECHERS and they love to have their bears wear them, too,” said Felicia Taylor, Senior Manager Partnerships Bear. “Now it’s even more fun because they can have a furry friend that lights up just like the shoes they love!”


Teaching Your Kids to be Patriotic

By Brandy Walleshauser of No Time Mommy


I met my husband a few weeks before he left for basic training. It was one of the toughest decisions he ever made, but after 2001 he felt like he had to defend his country. We welcomed our first daughter while he was still in the Army and he deployed to Iraq a second time two weeks after she was born. Just three short months later, we lost some incredible friends by an IED. It was at that point that we decided it was important for our kids to know the true meaning of Memorial Day and Independence Day, letting them know what it means to be patriotic. After all, for most people it is a day of fun and barbecues, but to us it’s so much more.

I think it’s hard for my kids to really understand the true meaning of being patriotic because they are so young, but we have taught them a few simple things.

Flying the flag: The American flag is a big part of being Patriotic, and while we can’t fly one where we live we make sure our kids know what it means and the proper etiquette when holding or hanging a flag. We do have a flag across from us along with a POW/MIA flag in honor of those missing. The kids love looking at it.

Showing your spirit: You can buy a child’s flag shirt for just $5, it’s the perfect way for your child to show off their spirit.

Read a book about our country: My daughter came home one day from school and was teaching me about patriotism and our founding fathers, etc. It was really amazing how much she knew, all from a children’s book.

Showing self respect: This could be the most important thing to teach your children. For a child to learn what it really means to be patriotic they need to show respect to our culture and country. We would not have freedom without responsibility. Teaching your kids not to liter or damage their surroundings is a great way to show respect for themselves and the world around them.

There is also the option of taking them to a concert or a fireworks show, to show your child how patriotic others are.

My son decided that he wanted to show you his spirit by getting a star style teddy from Build A Bear Workshop and dress it up as a soldier.


Champerina: counting more than friendships

One day Quinnlin’s mom added up how many specialists she and her brother have seen as a result of their multiple special needs. It might surprise you to know that they have seen…

  • 7 pediatric nephrologists, 2 hepatologists, 10 pediatricians, several physician assistants and 6 surgeons
  • 20 speech, physical, occupational and vision therapists
  • 1 orthopedist
  • 1 urologist
  • 100 nurses (at least), lab technicians and nurse assistants
  • 1 child life specialist, 1 nutritionist
  • 8 transplant nurses/coordinators
  • 2 psychiatrists, 2 play therapists
  • 2 dermatologists
  • 1 insurance policy, 2 secondary insurance policies and 5 case managers
  • 5 pharmacies
  • 2 social workers

Quinnlin and Champerina head to the doctor, as friends

Continue reading


Audrey’s picks: the hottest fashions for summer!

By Molly Saunders, Digital Bear

with help from Audrey, 8

Audrey loves fashion and furry friends, I knew she would be the pawfect person to share her favorite summer catalog picks! Audrey’s mom is one of the bears on the digital team. I recently sat down with the furbulous fashionista herself, Miss Audrey, to find out what’s hot in our summer catalog. Check out Audrey’s picks, because they might make great gifts for someone you know and love! Continue reading


Celebrate the American flag on Flag Day, June 14

Honoring The Flag on Flag Day

Folding the flag with pride.

Greetings from General Sarge HQ! Here I am checking in once again for another great patriotic day on the calendar.

Did you know Thursday, June 14th is Flag Day?

While Flag Day isn’t an official federal holiday, it’s been celebrated on June 14th for a long time. Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which took place by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress way back in 1777!

That’s 235 years ago!

In honor of the day I gathered a couple of my furry-friend recruits waiting for deployment to help fold the flag. You will also notice a certificate in this picture too. There’s a New York State flag neatly folded in that package which New York State Senator Michael Nozzolio recently presented to my human-owners’ parents! The flag was flown at the Albany, New York State Legislature building. We’re going to send it to my human-owner PFC Ben in Afghanistan so he can fly it there and remember his home state.

Continue reading


RSVP for our reunion!

We’re all about celebrations here at Build-A-Bear Workshop. This year we’re celebrating over 100 million furry friends made and we want to reunite with all our friends! This coming weekend, May 24-27, at all our stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, we’re having a Friends Reunion. If you RSVP to the event and bring your furry friend you’ll get an exclusive Friends Count Tiny Tee for your friend. Remember to RSVP for each person you will be bringing, and don’t forget to bring your furry friend. We can’t wait to see you there!

If you’re a Fan on our Facebook page or if you follow us on Twitter, be sure to share your reunion pics with us!

RSVP to our Friends Count Reunion!


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