One of the teddy bear world’s leading lights had to be Annette Funicello. A child star — back when that meant a disciplined and talented performer, not a media brat or a cyber know-it-all — Annette grew up in front of the eyes of her adoring public. Whether she was a Mouseketeer or a beach-blanket, bikini-clad pop star, Annette was always America’s sweetheart. When she moved into the realm of teddy bear designing, it was a natural fit. She had always adored her own stuffed-animal companions — and was frequently photographed holding a toy bear, tiger, poodle, or lion — and her name and good cheer brought attention to the world of artist bears and adult collectors.
When Ms. Funicello passed away in April of 2013 from complications due to multiple sclerosis, Hollywood lost a lovely leading lady, America lost an honest-to-goodness “girl next door,” and the bear world bid farewell to a creative, talented woman who put bits of her own biography into each Teddy that she oversaw.
Now, more than three years after her death, Annette and her legacy are still doing good — in particular, raising funds and awareness about the need for more research into neurological disorders. One way that her life’s passion — advocating for medical breakthroughs — is continuing on is through the auctioning of her personal memorabilia, effects, and bears that held significance in her lifetime.
Just recently, the #1 Emily bear, which was named after Annette’s granddaughter, Emily Hanson, was put up for auction to raise money for Annette’s foundation, Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases (AFRFND). According to Adam Rogers, of AFRFND, “This was a #1/3000 Limited Edition Emily bear. The number ones of every limited-edition bear produced for The Annette Funicello Collectible Bear Company was reserved for Annette, herself, and never sold to the public. After Annette received her #1 Emily bear, she decided to gift it to the granddaughter who inspired the bear’s name.”
In the spirit of the holiday season, the auction took place via AFRFND’s eBay Giving Works auction program. Now, also slated to occur this week — the week of December 14 — is the auctioning of the Dapper Dan bear. This #1 bear belonged to Annette, who gifted it to her stepdaughter Debbie. The auction will once again aim to raise much-needed funds for medical research and the creation of grants in the neurological field.
Always striving to give of herself, Annette and her husband, Glen Holt, founded the AFRFND in 1993, 20 years before Funicello succumbed to the complications of multiple sclerosis. The duo set up the fund so that it would have minimal overhead costs, and the board continues to adhere to that founding principle. Because of its lean budgeting, the AFRFND is able to devote more than 90 percent of every dollar raised to underwriting medical grants.
The AFRFND is funding hospitals and laboratories around the world. Among their recipients are: the Alfred Health teaching hospital, Melbourne, Australia; Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY; Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Louisiana State University; Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi, Milan, Italy.
In the spirit of the Christmas season, the fund’s board of directors is hoping that teddy bear fans around the world will bid on the Dapper Dan bear and/or will give a contribution in memory of this fellow arctophile. Annette Funicello continues to have fans and admirers who respect her music, her movies, and her inspirational courage in the face of adversity. One of her quotes has become a rallying cry for folks around the globe: “Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.” Hopefully, her optimism will touch all of us ursine fans this holiday week.
Information about the auction can be discovered at the fund’s website, under the Auctions tab. Dapper Dan is slated to go live as an auction piece on or around December 14 or 15. Check to find the exact date for this week at the website.