A family from Iowa is desperately searching for a stuffed toy elephant that holds the ashes of their late son, who died last year at the age of 7.
Liz Atkinson said she lost the toy, named Bruce, during a trip to Florida in late April. She posted about the missing elephant on Facebook, hoping that someone would find it and return it to her.Embed from Getty Images
Bruce belonged to her son Gabryel, who suffered from a chromosome 9 abnormality that caused him to have multiple health issues. He had more than 50 surgeries, procedures and hospitalizations before he passed away on April 14, 2022.
“He slept with it every night and since his passing my husband and I have had it in our bed with us,” Ms. Atkinson wrote.
The family decided to go to Disney World for Gabryel’s birthday this year, along with their surviving son Sebastyan. They brought Bruce with them, as a way to keep Gabryel’s memory alive.
They stayed at several hotels and visited various attractions, including Cocoa Beach and Disney Springs. Ms. Atkinson said she thought Bruce was always in a bag or in her arms, but she realized he was gone when they returned home on May 1.
“I never in a million years would’ve thought that struggling with grief would have impaired my memory enough to forget him somewhere,” she wrote.
She said she called each of the places they visited and filled out a lost and found form on Disney’s website, but no one had found Bruce. She also learned that cameras at the marina in Cocoa Beach showed Sebastyan carrying Bruce into their vehicle, so he was not left behind there.
Ms. Atkinson said Bruce had a small bag of Gabryel’s ashes inside a pouch on his back. She said the elephant was very special to her son, who received it when he was in the neonatal intensive care unit.
“He loved elephants so much,” she said. “He would make elephant noises all the time.”
She asked anyone with information to contact her through Facebook or email. She said she was willing to pay for shipping or travel expenses to get Bruce back.
“I feel sick, struggling to sleep. I’m desperate,” she wrote.
Her post has been shared more than 100,000 times on Facebook, with many people expressing sympathy and support. Some also offered suggestions on how to find Bruce, such as contacting local media outlets or posting flyers.
Ms. Atkinson said she appreciated the help and hoped that someone would recognize Bruce and return him to her family.
“He means everything to us,” she said.
- Family loses toy elephant carrying son’s ashes on Disney trip, CBS News, May 8, 2023
- Family loses toy elephant with son’s ashes during Disney World vacation, WJTV, May 8, 2023
- Family loses toy elephant with son’s ashes during Walt Disney World vacation, WESH 2 News, May 8, 2023