Who We Are
Amanda Bowles - President / Co-Founder
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in the Hills and worked in leadership from a very early age. I have always dreamt big and always want to see those that work with me achieve greatness and be filled with joy. If you are going to do something, be amazing! Every interaction you have with anyone is an opportunity to inspire and be inspired.
When our first son was born I just revelled in the joy of motherhood and took 13 months to be with him before returning to part-time leadership.
When Liam was 3 we were delighted to be expecting another baby, however we learned that our baby was too sick to survive outside my womb. At 21 weeks our perfect son was stillborn. Jesse was the image of his older brother and is a much loved part of our family. Losing a baby is a devastation that cannot be understood until you’ve been there. I had an incredible network of friends that were super supportive and my parents and other family members amazing every step of the way – yet the isolation and grief was unbearable.
I couldn’t fathom raising other children in a world where such horrific things happen to good people for no reason. I knew that Jesse’s brief life had purpose and I had to live it out for him.
How did Bears of Hope come to be?
Another lady, Toni Tattis, was donating bears herself to hospitals in honour of her girls. I was lucky enough to receive one when we lost Jesse and that’s when we decided to register as a charity. The rest is history!
How does Bears of Hope support families grieving the loss of a child?
There are 2 key ways. The first is providing a Bear of Hope and resources to families at the time of loss to guide them through choices and decisions, and help them make the most of their short time together. Each bear is donated in honour of another baby that didn’t make it home, giving that baby’s life purpose while filling the arms of another family and letting them know there is a community of support available to them.
The second way we assist is through our Beyond the Bear Support which comes in many forms. From private online support groups to free phone, email and face to face counselling, psychologist facilitated support groups and special events.
What do you love about what you do?
We’re empowering families to seek help and not be afraid, embarrassed or ashamed to speak of their grief or their love for their child. I am educating the wider community on the impact the loss of a baby has on a family and changing perceptions.
Who inspires you?
Many people. Obviously I’m driven by the desire to improve the accessibility to services for bereaved families but often I’m actually inspired by the people we serve and support. I’m so often moved by the courage of these families to attend support groups or events and trust the services we provide. But at the end of the day my mum is my greatest inspiration – without her love and unending advice I would never be the person I am today.
Toni Watson - Vice-President / Co-Founder
A Mother, Author and qualified Early Childhood Teacher. After three years of falling pregnant naturally and losing all seven babies, five from miscarriages - Rhys(11wks), Jordyn (9wks), twins Cooper & Kaitlyn (7wks), and James (5wks) and identical twins-Jacinta & Madelin after birth at 24 weeks, (due to PROM from Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome), I now have 2 rainbow girls, a nine year old and one year old. Starting Bears Of Hope has allowed me to acknowledge and honour each of my babies in a precious and memorable way that has contributed incredibly to my healing. It has also created an inner strength and the ability to never give up hope, aiding in my desire to help others. I have drawn great comfort from the many beautiful connections I've made over the years. I can only wish that those who are sadly touched by our program, that you too never give up hope.
Kylie Pace - Secretary
I am a wife to a wonderful husband and mum to 2 precious Angel Boys. Jesse Jay born at 16 weeks gestation on 16.06.2007 & Jamie Vic born at 21 weeks on 18.06.2008. The amazing support I have found through Bears Of Hope has played such a huge part in my journey after losing our precious boys. I am so thankful for the support I did and continue to receive and I am truly honoured to be involved in such a wonderful organisation. I hope to make my boys proud as I endeavour to support others walking the same path in life. Sending love, strength and support to all.
Adrian Raftery -Treasurer
Husband to Kylie and dad to ~Sophie Cleo~ born 32 weeks on 14th December 2008. Chartered Accountant, part-time leprechaun.
Losing ~Sophie~ was the toughest experience in life, even greater than losing my best friend (my father) two years earlier. Just as there is no book on how to become a father, there is absolutely no book on what to do when you lose your daughter. Life is full of defining moments – those moments that you remember forever – and when we received our Bear of Hope it was a turning point in our grieving process. Despite people telling you to move on, life still sucks and losing ~Sophie~ hurts every single day. The only things that change is that you learn to cope and come to the realisation that life is too short and precious. We told our little girl that we would make a difference and are glad that our part in this program may help other families who receive a Bear of Hope named in her honour.