Growing up, we all loved our teddy bears. They acted no less than our companions and friends. But imagine having over 20,000 teddy bears around you to hug? Hungary’s Valeria Schmidt is doing just that with her collection after the ongoing pandemic prevented her from distributing them to children.
Nicknamed 'Teddy Bear Mama', 62-year-old Schmidt has been collecting these stuffed toys for over 40 years now and broke the Hungarian record for the largest collection of teddy bears with her 13,000 stuffed friends. In 2019, Schmidt entered the Guinness Book of Records for the largest collection of 20,367 teddy bears.
According to a Reuters report, she gives away her collection to nurseries, pre-schools and children of poor families along with conducting exhibitions at children’s institutions, where the young ones can come and play with the toys.
A resident of Harsany village in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County in northeastern Hungary, Schmidt is now looking after the neatly packed collection of over 20,000 teddy bears as the pandemic has prevented her from distributing them or holding exhibitions.
In a video shared by Reuters, Schmidt is seen showcasing her massive collection and saying how she broke the world record. "Lots and lots of people sent me teddy bears and I kept buying them too."
Sharing her journey of this unusual passion with the news agency, Schmidt says that growing up in an economically poor household she never had any toys as her family could even barely afford clothes. Her parents divorced when she was four and her childhood was spent in poverty. “That is why I wanted a teddy bear so I could hug it and get some love from it,” she says.
A young Schmidt wanted a stuffed friend to provide her love and comfort during hardships but could only afford to buy her first teddy bear when she was in her 20s. After that, she never stopped buying them and her collection kept growing. With her exhibitions, she now wants other children to experience the same love and comfort.
Stating that the bears "cured her soul", she says in the video, "These teddy bears can make up for the hunger, all the lack of love, lack of toys and everything." She goes on to say that now when she sees children coming to her exhibitions, she can see the same joy and happiness in their eyes.
Before she broke the Guinness Record, the honour was held by 68-year-old Jackie Miley from Rapid City, South Dakota, USA, who had a collection of 8026 teddy bears.