More than 1,000 stuffed bears were distributed to children around Ascension Parish just in time for Christmas thanks to an idea that started after the death of a Dutchtown High School student.

Grieving after Dutchtown High School student Claire Carline, 15, of Prairieville, died Dec. 9 in a head-on collision on her way to school, Carline family friend Vickie Hall was looking for a way to honor Claire’s memory. Carline’s sisters, Camille, 17, and Colleen, 16, were injured in the crash.

Remembering that “Claire Bear” was Claire’s nickname since she was a toddler, Hall decided to collect stuffed bears to distribute in Claire’s memory.

In a week, the drive grew from a few locations to a much longer list of supporters, Hall said.

“I cannot express enough gratitude to God, my family, for helping me with the teddy bear drive, family and friends of the Carline family, Auto Yes, Brian Thompson for assisting me with the deliveries, Ensite Design, Platinum Portraits by Jeri Melancon, AAA Rent-All, Danny Barry, radio station 98.1, WAFB, Sage Environmental Consulting, L.P. and ExxonMobil,” Hall said. “There is also a company who has requested to remain anonymous who has graciously assisted me with this effort.”

Prairieville Primary, Prairieville Middle and Dutchtown High schools served as drop-off points and students from Central Middle School and St. Amant High School’s Allied Health program assisted.

A total of 1,563 bears were collected, she said.

On Dec. 19, Hall invited some of Claire’s friends to help sort and package the stuffed bears for delivery.

“My family and I sorted the bears each night,” Hall said. “On the last night I invited some of Claire’s friends to help load the U-Haul so they could personally see the impact of the teddy bear drive.”

Receiving the donations were Brave Heart Children in Need Inc., Court Appointed Special Advocates, St. Vincent de Paul’s Sweet Dreams Shelter, Toys for Tots, St. Elizabeth Hospital, Our Lady of Lake Children’s Miracle Network, St. James Parish Hospital, Louisiana State Police, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, Prairieville Fire Department and St. John Evangelist Catholic Church.

Hall said that through the drive, “Claire’s loving spirit will be shared with children throughout our community.”