NEW HARTFORD — “I realized how hard of a time this was for everyone but especially kids,” says Olivia Carlson, a dance teacher, who started thinking of ways to make mask wearing a more positive experience for children.
“I had the idea in the middle of the night, actually,” she says. “I was on my phone, I Googled where I could get teddy bears. I actually didn’t even know how to sew at that point…my aunt had made my family face masks when the pandemic started, so, I asked her to teach me how to sew.”
The 23-year-old from New Hartford created six prototypes of QuaranTine Bear, a stuffed animal that wears a mask. There’s even a matching face covering for the child.
“I just posted it on Facebook for my friends and family, ‘Who wants a QuaranTine Bear?’ And the response I got was crazy!” she remembers.
Since then, Carlson has made an astounding 1,500 plush friends.
Teddy bears took-on a special meaning for her when her dad was sick before he passed away in 2018.
“I went to Build-a-Bear and bought [him] and I a bear, so we each had one,” she explains. “I still have my bear, and he is buried with him. It brings me a lot of comfort.”
The recent Central Connecticut State University grad studied dance education with a specialization in – you guessed it – entrepreneurship.
“It’s just opened up a whole new world for me that I didn’t know existed, and I’ve learned so much just by doing this,” she says.
How long will we be wearing masks? It’s unclear, but Carlson will be happy to adapt her idea when the time comes.
“Really I’m just so busy right now that I’m just letting this take me where it does, but I would love to explore more opportunities once I get a second to breathe,” she laughs.
There are also Pay It Forward Bears. If you don’t have a child to buy for, you can purchase a bear and Carlson will donate it to a child in need.
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