Girl loses teddy bear and WSDOT crews find and return it

by guest blogger Dustin Terpening

The things our maintenance crews do never cease to amaze me. These are the guys and gals who work through the night during floods and snowstorms, respond to crashes, and remove dead animals from our highways. They’re always going above and beyond to take care of drivers and our highways. This time they went the extra mile to find a missing teddy bear along I-90 in eastern Washington for a six-year-old girl.

We first learned of the missing teddy bear when Patty Sweeney posted a message on our Facebook page. The teddy bear belonged to her granddaughter, Justice, who got carsick during a recent road trip. Somehow, Daddy Bear, as Justice affectionately calls him, escaped from the car when they pulled over. It wasn’t until they got home that they realized Daddy Bear was missing. It was a long night for the family -- Justice couldn’t sleep without coveted bear. Her dad, who is now stationed in Korea, gave her the bear when she was two before he left for Iraq. Needless to say, the bear has some sentimental meaning.

When Harry Nelson and Terry Kukes, with our maintenance team in eastern Washington, found out about a missing teddy bear along I-90, their own kids and grandkids came to mind. Harry actually recalled the teddy bear he gave his daughter when she was born. Now, his daughter is almost 13 years old and still hangs on to the bear. He knows how important a teddy bear can be.

Harry actually used to be a logger by trade. He worked for WSDOT in the ‘80s in maintenance as a seasonal employee. When the logging industry went “timber,” Harry decided he’d better find something more solid than a tree. That’s why he picked WSDOT. He started his second career in 2005, and loves the people he works with.

The duo went looking for the bear because, with all the media attention, they didn’t want drivers slowing down along the highway looking for the bear themselves. It just wouldn’t be safe. Amazingly, the guys found the bear after two quick trips through the area where the family thought they might have lost the bear. The guys snapped a picture (insert photo) of the bear and sent it to the family to verify that it was, indeed, the bear. Sure enough, it was the one.

Knowing how special this bear was to Justice, these guys took it upon themselves, on their own time, to make the 3½-hour commute from eastern Washington to Sedro-Woolley to personally deliver Daddy Bear. “We heard the little girl was having a hard time sleeping at night without the bear,” Harry said. “When we were driving down to return the bear, I was hoping it would help the girl sleep good tonight.”

What a special moment it was to see Daddy Bear reunited to the arms of Justice. She was so excited. The family never thought they’d see the bear again, but here he was showing up in the unlikely hands of two of our maintenance crews.

Update: see this story on World News Tonight and Good Morning America