Aidan Jackson of Widnes, England, was devastated when his friend Olivia Walker died in February of 2014. Olivia died from complications resulting from acute disabilities, such as epilepsy, scoliosis, and global development delay. She was only fifteen years old.
Olivia’s parents established the Olivia Alice Foundation in her honor to fund-raise for children’s hospitals so they can purchase medical equipment and provide support for families. Aidan, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was determined to raise money in honor of his late friend. Olivia had always loved stuffed animals and Aidan knew he wanted to incorporate that love into his friend’s memorial.
Aidan’s first thought was to attempt to break the Guinness world record for the longest line of teddy bears. However, Aiden decided not to try that idea after he found out that the present record is held by a young boy who died last year. With some help from his mother, Aidan came up with the idea to place the teddy bears on each seat of the Select Stadium, home of the Widnes Vikings Rugby Club. The stadium seats over 13,000 people.
The Jacksons used many different means to get the word out about the aptly named Teddy Bear Challenge, from emails to the local media to leaflets.
“We asked people to donate a teddy and a pound,” Aidan said. “We found that we received a lot more teddies than pounds, but I didn’t let this put me off, as I felt that raising awareness for the Olivia Alice Foundation was extremely important.” They quickly collected almost 2,000 teddy bears and reached out further through social media, collecting bears both new and used.
Aidan and his family ultimately collected 10,500 teddy bears and set them on the stadium seats with the help of volunteers from the local community. Aidan had some trouble setting up the bears because of difficulties with his legs. “I wanted to keep going, but I had to rest and then seat teddies on the lower levels of the stadium so I didn’t have to go up and down all the steps. The best part was looking round the stadium to see all the colors brightening everywhere up.”
Now that the Teddy Bear Challenge is complete, Aiden hopes others will be inspired to take action. “No matter how hard things might be,” he said, “you can take on a challenge and see it through if you put your mind to it and have support.”