Burke P. Derr dreamed of helping others and finding a cure for cystic fibrosis (CF). He died due to CF two days prior to his 19th birthday in June of 1997, but his dream lives on in the form of his namesake teddy bear.
Burke was an honor student, computer whiz, sports enthusiast, and a lifelong collector of teddy bears. His two best friends, Kelly Walter and Gretchen Robbins, wrote a letter to the Boyds Collection about four months before he passed asking that Boyds consider naming a bear after Burke. They explained that Burke had CF and was a fanatic Boyds collector. Gary Lowenthal, the 'Head Bean Hisself' at Boyds, responded by saying "Your letter has definitely touched my soul, so please tell Burke we will be naming a bear in honor of him." Burke was ecstatic when his friends showed him the letter, and Boyds ensured the original prototype of Burke P. Bear was delivered to Burke in the hospital about five days before he died.
Burke's story is more about a beginning than an ending. The story of a young man and his teddy bear was published locally and also on the internet. Pennsylvania Cystic Fibrosis, Inc. (PACFI) initiated the Million Dollar Bear campaign and Burke's Tour to create an awareness of CF and to raise funds for CF research. Within six months, PACFI had over 150 retailers in 35 states donating $1 for every Burke P. Bear sold, and the Boyds Collection added over $15,000 to the campaign. Through PACFI, Burke's Tour began and currently the Traveling Teddy has toured 45 states and 23 world countries in raising over $400,000 for CF research.
In 1999, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a resolution proclaiming Burke P. Bear "The Pennsylvania Ambassador for Love, Peace, Having Fun, and Curing Cystic Fibrosis." The U.S. Congress awarded a Certificate of Merit to Burke P. Bear for his CF work. Over the years due to his visits to other countries, his title became simply the "Ambassador of Love."
We're very proud of Burke and his namesake teddy bear. His legacy of love has inspired thousands around the world and the campaign/tour monies are donated each year to chosen CF researchers. As his Dad and StepMom, we look to the day when a cure is found. Until then, we know Burke P. Bear will work tirelessly to make Burke P. Derr's dream of a CF cure come true.
Bob and Linda Derr
Burke's Dad and StepMom