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College Student Who Survived Hurricane Katrina Launches Non-Profit To Send Teddy Bears To Children In Louisiana

Photo: Comfort Bears In A Catastrophe
teddy bear drive disaster

A survivor of Hurricane Katrina is using her experience to help others by launching "Comfort Bears in a Catastrophe" — a non-profit that aims to help children that are impacted by disasters.

Following the category 4 hurricane that left millions of homes without power, the nonprofit is striving to get the kids in Louisiana the comfort they need.

'Comfort Bears in a Catastrophe' is offering support to Hurricane Ida survivors.

Founder Mimi Hymel is trying to raise awareness for her cause and help children in need in Louisiana.

The goal, besides sending a teddy bear to every child in need, is to send an encouraging letter alongside it that helps kids feel safe and not alone.

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“A lot of the messages say it will be okay, things will get better, you are safe,” said Hymel.

'Comfort Bears in a Catastrophe' was founded by a Hurricane Katrina survivor.

Hymel was only three years old when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005.

The category 5 storm caused almost $100 billion dollars in damage and left millions homeless and thousands dead as 175 mph winds raged and floods persisted for weeks.

“It was really scary, the thought of being a child and not knowing if my dad would come home ever because the cell lines were cut, we couldn’t reach him for weeks,” said Hymel.

When her family finally returned, she found her childhood home had been destroyed.

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“All the walls were gutted, all of our furniture was ruined, mildew everywhere, we came home and had absolutely nothing left,” said Hymel.

In all of that, she also lost her teddy bear, who she said she took everywhere with her. Helping and comforting her in the darkest of times, except for the hurricane’s aftermath.

“I still feel those emotions and I still feel those impacts every day,” Hymel, now an ASU senior, says.

“Having to go through that storm sort of feeling isolated and alone without that best friend was really hard, and I think a lot of children talk to their teddy bears as a friend and they confide in them, so it not only gives them a safe judgment-free space to be able to process that trauma, but it also helps adults realize how they’re processing that trauma.”

How to support 'Comfort Bears in a Catastrophe.'

People can donate their teddy bears, a letter, or a tax deductible monetary donation from anywhere in the world, and those donations will go directly to Hurricane Ida relief as well.

With millions of homes without power and damages being assessed, these are uncertain times for everyone affected by the storm.

Homes have been destroyed, people are missing, and the death tolls are rising as the storm has finally passed and people are returning back to their neighborhoods.

Thankfully, the children returning will have a teddy bear to comfort them.

“We’re doing a donation drive right now through September 9, and all those bears will be donated to Hurricane Ida,” said Hymel. “If just one child can benefit from that and can have comfort bear that they can call a friend to be able to go on and overcome that, I think that’s a job well done.”

The organization’s website includes links to donate, how you can help if you can’t, and resources for those who are affected to get back on their feet.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice and politics.