TEMPE — A lifetime of collecting, a final wish, and a good deed that will hopefully bring comfort to hundreds of kids.
Throughout her life, Joe Archambeault's sister, Ruth, amassed a huge collection of bears, from stuffed teddy bears to puzzles, slippers, calendars, and a CD case.
"It just wasn’t one or two, by my count. [It's] well over ten thousand bears," he said.
Within her modest Tempe home, the bears were placed everywhere — in bags, on shelves — wherever there was enough room for another one to be showcased.
"It’s unreal how many bears I’ve uncovered here, it just felt like they kept multiplying as I was opening up bins,” he said.
Joe's sister passed away recently following a fight with cancer.
“I did ask her before she passed, what would she like done with her collection, and she said she’d like to have them donated to the children’s hospitals and Toys for Tots,” he said.
So, for the last few weeks, Joe has been going through his sister's bins to grant her final wish.
On Wednesday, members of Toys For Tots showed up at the house to collect all of the bears and were immediately in awe of what was in front of them.
“This is crazy,” said Sgt. Arlys Luna with Marine Core Toys for Tots Maricopa County.
“I’d say all-time high for teddy bear donation,” said Sgt. Felix Ortiz Ramirez.
Box after box filled to the brim, now destined for children across Maricopa County.
“The fact that multiple kids and families around the area are going to be receiving these donations from other people in the community I think speaks volumes about how everyone is sticking together,” said Sgt. Ramirez.
For Joe, it's a tender moment of healing to fulfill his sister's last request; it's one last time to connect with her.
“Giving back to the kids right now, ya, she’d be happy with it,” he said.