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Family honors the memory of loved one by collecting teddy bears for families dealing with cancer

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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - For five years now, the Ruehle family has held a teddy bear drive in memory of Mike Ruehle, who passed from cancer in 2014.

The teddy bears are given to adults and children with a cancer connection, in Mike's memory.

Family and friends knew Mike as "Bear."

The family asks people to consider donating a teddy bear in memory of a loved one, or in honor of healthy family members.

If you'd like to donate, every bear must be new with the tag still attached. The donations will stay in Siouxland.

There are five different locations where you can drop off the bears:

  • Ruehle Family Chiropractic:
    • 3215 Gordon Dr.
    • Sioux City
  • Siouxland Center for Active Generations:
    • 313 Cook St.
    • Sioux City
  • Boy Scouts of America
    • 819 A Gordon Dr.
    • Sioux City
  • Bishop Heelan Catholic High School
    • 1231 Grandview Blvd.
    • Sioux City
  • FYZICAL Dizziness and Balance Center
    • 101 Tower Rd. Suite #110
    • Dakota Dunes, SD 57049

Ruehle's family says the teddy bear drive has donated more than 3,000 stuffed animals to several Siouxland agencies.

But who is the man who inspired the teddy bear drive?

"Very thoughtful person, very giving, he always took the time to listen to other people, just a really compassionate, kindhearted person," said Kerry Ruehle, Mike's Widow.

Mike Ruehle, or as his family called him, Bear, passed away six years ago, after a 12 year battle with cancer.

The family said he was very active in the community and was often coaching numerous sports teams.

They said he had a big heart, and always did what he could to make others feel better, even while he himself had cancer.

"If there were any patients his doctor had, who were having a difficult time with the news or with the adjustment. He would reach out to my dad, and see if my dad would sit down with them and talk about what was going on with them," said Rhett, Mike's son.

Part of the reason the teddy bear drive was started was because of Bear's compassion towards children who were also dealing with cancer.

"He would see a young child going through similar things that he was going through. He would always go out of his way to talk to that little kid and brighten their day a little bit," said Rhett.

Mike had had three different kinds of cancers, and due to the chemotherapy, eventually was diagnosed with MDS, which is a bone marrow failure disorder.

Doctors determined that the best treatment would be a stem cell transplant. The transplant surgery went well, but months later his body began rejecting his brother's stem cells, and within five weeks he had passed away.

"It was a shock because he had been ahead of schedule and everything else. And he had come through things beautifully, so it was quite a shock. But it was… god's plan I guess," said Kerry.

But Mike's family wanted a way to keep Mike's memory alive, and that's what also helped start the teddy bear drive.

"My oldest granddaughter is five, she never met her grandpa. But in some ways, she feels as though she did, because of talking about him and she helps me with the bear drive," said Kerry

Leslie London

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