Flying and Dreaming with......
Burke P. Bear By Bob Derr (Burke P. Bear's Dad)
Burke died June 17, 1997, because a disease called Cystic Fibrosis (CF) claimed his earth life. But Burke wanted people to know that his spirit lives -- I can feel his presence now -- laughing, soaring, flying!
"Hey Dad," Burke said excitedly in the spring of 1997 as he placed a tape in the recorder, "you gotta' hear this song -- it's my favorite song." I sat and listened as Celine Dion's mellow voice sang the song "Fly" from her tape entitled "Falling Into You:"
Fly, fly little wing, fly beyond imagining, the softest cloud, the whitest dove, upon the wings of Heaven's love, past the planets and the stars, leave this lonely world of ours, escape the sorrow and the pain, and fly again...
Burke explained that Celine wrote the song in memory of her niece, Karine, who died of Cystic Fibrosis. "That's a beautiful song," I said, tears filling my eyes. I knew and I think Burke knew that he didn't have much time left. I think he wanted me to know that it was OK, that dying is nothing more than an even greater form of living. I found later that he played the song for his two brothers, Brian and Brett; for his mother and stepfather; for his friends, as well as for his stepmother, Linda and I -- all the people he loved. Shortly afterwards Burke received a letter from Gary Lowenthal, of the Boyds Collection, saying they were naming a Boyds bear after him, Burke P. Bear. Unknown to Burke, two of his friends had written a letter to Lowenthal telling him of Burke's CF and his collection of close to 150 Boyds bears which he'd gathered over the past six years. Burke was ecstatic about the honor; however, Burke P. Bear wasn't going to be available until the fall of 1997, and Burke's health began failing in late May. His friends sent an urgent plea to Lowenthal, "Can you somehow get a Burke P. Bear here real fast?"
The Boyds staff
in China to get
original sample to the United States. The one and only prototype sample was
delivered to the hospital about a week before Burke died, and the young man
who was voted 'Most Spirited' by his high school graduating class was overjoyed, telling his friends he was "the now famous Burke P. Bear."
Marks, a local
had agreed to
Pennsylvania Cystic Fibrosis. Inc. (PACFI), $1 for each Burke P. Bear she
sold and her idea began flying after Burke left us. We founded PACFI in 1985
as an independent, non-profit, all volunteer organization dedicated to meeting
the needs of CF families and to raising funds for CF research.
Janet Bryan put "The Burke P. Bear Story" on her Bears N' Buddies site http://www.bearsnbuddies.com/boyds/articles/burkesstory.htm and within 12 hours other retailers began signing up to give PACFI $1.00 for every Burke P. Bear they sold. Once Rosie Wells learned of Burke, she too added his story to her web site at http://www.rosiewells.com/burke.html PACFI began their "Million Dollar Bear" campaign to raise 1 million for CF research by the end of the year 2000 (which would have been Burke's college graduation year). PACFI plans to raise the monies through retailers, corporate donations and through donations from individuals and groups. Anyone interested in donating to the "Million Dollar Bear" campaign may contact PACFI at 1-800-900-2790, by fax at (570) 988-1942, by e-mail to email@example.com. or by simply sending a donation to PACFI, P.O. Box 29, Mifflinburg, PA 17844. One hundred percent of the funds received will go to selected CF research projects.
Now Burke's spirit and legacy lives on in the form of Burke P. Bear, who is raising research monies to beat the disease which took his life. And that was one of Burke's dreams to find a cure for CF. We miss Burke a lot, and some days are just overwhelming, but we have the best memories of his life, his love and his incredible spirit. That spirit, we think, lives in the "Million Dollar Bear" campaign which hopefully will play a part in finding a cure for CF.
We know, too, that the last stanza to Celine Dion's "Fly" is not an end but instead a grand and glorious beginning:
Fly, fly little wing, fly where only angels sing, fly away, the time is right, go now... find the light.
Burke with his brothers, Brian (left) and Brett (right).