In an emotion-filled room, 200 teddy bears took on the heartache of a family who lost a child too soon.
The cute and cuddly “Ashley Bears” were handed out this week at the Denton Regional Medical Center in memory of Ashley Walters, 21, who was accidentally shot in the face one year ago and eventually died.
The bears will be given to children being treated in the emergency room and to children who might need comfort only a teddy bear can provide while a family member is being treated.
“She loved kids and kids loved her,” said Sharmon Walters, Ashley’s mom, while wearing a purple “Team Ashley” shirt Wednesday afternoon. “The hospital treated our daughter like she was one of their own and we are happy to be able to give back.”
Ashley Walters was rushed to Denton Regional Medical Center after being shot, police say, by her boyfriend, Whiskey Dalton Welcome Williams, who is facing a manslaughter charge.
She was a nanny to two boys and had four months left to graduate from cosmetology school.
Dan Walters recalled the phone call that eventually sealed his daughter’s fate.
“I was called and I remember telling my wife to rush over since she was closer,” said Dan Walters. “When I pulled up to the hospital, I just got a sickening feeling in my stomach.”
From there, the couple learned their daughter had been shot, but she was kept on life support so her organs could be donated.
“It’s what she would’ve wanted,” said Sharmon Walters, who regularly attends speaking engagements about organ donations.
Four of the eight organ transplants were successful, and soon the family will meet the woman who now has their daughter’s heart.
“Knowing our daughter is living through someone means a lot,” Sharmon Walters said.
Much like with the organ donations, Ashley Walters’ legacy will live on with each of Ashley’s Bears, as well.
The bears were collected by Legacy DeMolay, a character and leadership development organization for young men 12 and up that hosts a bear drive every year in memory of a child.
Dan and Sharmon Walters said they were honored to participate and that Ashley Bears will be donated each year to the Denton hospital in their daughter’s honor for all the kindness the hospital bestowed upon them.
More than 1,200 bears were donated throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Ashley Walters’ behalf, and 200 went to Denton Regional.
“She is shining down from above us now,” her mom said tearfully. “Every child that gets one of these bears has a piece of my daughter.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.