HARRISON CO., MS (WLOX) - It’s said a mother’s love knows no bounds. A grieving South Mississippi mom is honoring her daughter’s memory by providing plenty of love and hugs to others in the form of bears called Kuddles.
Since her 12-year-old daughter Kaitlyn died last year, Theresa Snell has remained strong, sharing hope with others and advocating for people with disabilities.
Theresa said her final goodbyes to Kaitlyn on July 6, 2018.
“I think this is the absolute hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life,” she said.
“Being with her, having her, constantly taking care of her every day, all day, to her just being gone."
Now, Theresa cherishes the many memories of Kaitlyn she has.
“She was sassy, a diva.... a ‘selfie queen,'" said Theresa with a smile.
Since birth, Kaitlyn battled a number of physical and mental disabilities, from cerebral palsy to short gut syndrome.
"She was my warrior, and she never lost her fight, and her ability to love."
It’s a fight that Theresa didn’t let her daughter fight alone.
“We’re talking 24 hour care. Kaitlyn’s a warrior but you’re a warrior, too," said Paula Lacoste, talking to her sister Theresa.
“Well, you do what you have to do," said Theresa.
“They’re your kids. You become their voice, you become their advocate, you become their everything for them. And you just fight for them, and you fight with them."
By doing that, she became the voice for many others, as well. She sparked the idea of building a playground every one could enjoy, including those with special needs.
“I was trying to take her to play and I could not get her to the wooden play area," said Theresa. "I got so frustrated because I couldn’t get her wheelchair there.”
She turned that frustration into action, reaching out to county leaders and organizations like Disability Connection. In 2012, the Disability Connection Community Playground was built, the first fully accessible playground in Harrison County.
“I guess I can take credit for being a little hardheaded and not stopping,” said Theresa.
There was one other thing Snell really wanted to share with the world - Kaitlyn's love.
In 2014, she started sewing bears. She called them Kuddles from Kaitlyn, a name that is ironic since Kaitlyn was nonverbal and unable to show affection.
"She could never tell you that she loved you, but you could see it in her eyes."
So far, Theresa has sent more than 600 bears to anyone just needing a cuddle.
Despite facing her own battles and bearing the weight of her grief, Theresa works to mend the hearts of others with the Kuddles. Stitch by stitch, the bears are also helping to mend her own heart.
“It’s just a way to help, just a symbol of letting people know you’re thinking about them, praying for them, and just to let them know that they’re not alone.”
Each Kuddle is a symbol of the mother’s love and now a symbol of her daughter’s lasting memory.
Anyone interested in receiving a Kuddle of their own, can reach out to Theresa Snell through her Facebook page - Kuddles from Kaitlyn.