Grieving Mom Heartbroken When Build-A-Bear Refused to Let Her Build a 'Pay Your Age' Toy in Her Baby's Memory
The North Carolina mom lost her 6-month-old daughter the same day she received a ticket for the toy.
The day she lost her 6-month-old daughter Dahlia was understandably "the worst day" of Ashley Guevara's life. In a first-person account for Love What Matters, the North Carolina mom explained that her little girl was born with a genetic abnormality that causes "low muscle tone, epilepsy, delay in eye contact, delayed development, and an array of other things." After fighting for her life in the NICU and while battling rhinovirus, the little one was diagnosed with pneumonia.
"She declined rapidly," Guevara wrote. "We knew her time was near. We had our whole family come and visit her. The next day, around 3:30 in the morning, her dad and I held onto her while she took her last breath." Guevara wrote that in the wake of her baby's passing, "I lost a chunk of my soul." Making an already heart-wrenching situation even worse: the fact that the very same day she had to say goodbye to her baby girl, she received a "stab to the heart" in the form of an Facebook response from Build-A-Bear.
Guevara explained that prior to her baby's passing, she had signed up for a "Pay Your Age" ticket at the toy chain, meant to be a sweet thing for her older daughter Carmen to do with her little sister. "The day she died was the day we got the email that we had won the tickets for our girls," Guevara noted. "I waited a few days before I asked if we could still use it for my girls even though one was now my angel baby. I explained how she unexpectedly passed the day we received them. It felt like the perfect thing to do in order to honor and remember her."
But when Build-A-Bear responded on Facebook, they told Guevara that she couldn't use the ticket. The message read, "Thank you for reaching out and for being our Guest. We are so sorry for your loss. This is designed to be an in-store experience for our Guests. Therefore, the Guest must be present to pay their age. ... Our thoughts are with you and we are sending Bear Hugs your way."
Guevara wrote on Love What Matters that she would have been okay with "a simple no," but the words they chose "felt like a stab to the heart." She elaborated, "They told me I couldn't because 'the guest must be present.' That was their response when I told them my daughter passed. Their words shattered me. I chose to not respond."
But the internet responded in defense of Guevara. "I started getting notifications and comments on the post," she wrote. "Then shares. People began messaging me. Somehow people got wind of their response and came to my defense. Eventually, Build-A-Bear reached out to me via Facebook, and their CEO called me to apologize how the post was handled and offered to have Carmen come in and make a special bear for herself and Dahlia. But honestly, after everything that happened, the bear lost its meaning to me."
Dorrie Krueger, Chief Strategy Officer told WTVD: "Our CEO has spoken directly with the mother, Ashley Guevara, and expressed our regret for our original online response. We are working with the family to find a time when they can visit our store for a personal—and hopefully special—complementary experience at a time that is convenient for them."
With hope, the experience offers Guevara and her family the experience she had been wishing for when she reached out to Build-A-Bear. In the meantime, she is taking heart in remembering her angel baby as "such a special girl and was a light in our life." She wrote, "Not matter what the doctor said, she pushed and pushed and proved them wrong. I’m so proud of her. Although my heart breaks and aches for her every second of every day, I do have some comfort in knowing she isn’t struggling anymore. She isn’t in pain. She is free."