HISTORY OF MINMINBEAR
Photo Credit: Rizalde Sherwood, PhotoWorld Studios
MinMinBears were created by Television Host, Producer, and Entrepreneur, Rachelle McCray, in honor of her mother, Mindy.
In 2002, Rachelle's mother found herself in need of a kidney donor to save her life after her kidney disease had progressed to end-stage renal failure. On April 12, 2005, at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Scottsdale, Mindy's father-in-law selflessly donated his kidney—giving her a second chance at life, and giving a mother back to her family.
Knowing the beauty that can come from organ donation, Rachelle decided to bring public attention to the need for kidney disease education, organ donation awareness, and patient aid through the sale of a stuffed toy named MinMinBears after her mom's nickname, MinMin.
Rachelle, who was Miss Arizona United States in 2011, launched the MinMinBear Initiative 8 years ago when she shared her personal story on a public level, by telling it through these adorable, plush teddy bears.
Rachelle, her mother, and her sister all have a rare genetic kidney disease called Alport Syndrome. Alport Syndrome can cause many side effects, including hearing loss, issues with eyesight, and even kidney failure.
All of the proceeds from the original MinMinBears launch benefited the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona and supported public education and direct patient aid, impacting Arizonans. At the time, there were two different stuffed toy bears, one representing a kidney donor, and the other that represented a kidney recipient. They were sold exclusively in Arizona.
But now, 15 years later, Mindy faces the need for a second transplant. Transplanted kidneys can last approximately 10-15 years, depending on several factors, so it is not uncommon to need more than one transplant during a person's lifetime.
Although many friends and family members offered to be tested, none proved to be a successful match. So, Rachelle decided to relaunch the program that helped others, this time to help her own mom.
In 2020, The MinMinBear Foundation was born and registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its first initiative is the MinMinBear Challenge, which takes MinMinBear and her friends through all 50 states to help Mindy find her perfect match. Today, Mindy is still searching for her perfect kidney match, and more information can be found HERE under our "Beyond the Bears" section of the website.
In 2021, the foundation decided to expand the mission to tell the stories of the hundreds of thousands of people who battle kidney disease, every day. They also began working with partners to send MinMinBears, and her friends, across the United States to comfort pediatric patients, dialysis patients of all ages, and those who are awaiting life-saving kidney transplants. The bears are also the source of inspiration behind a children's coloring book + adventure series, an upcoming kidney camp for families, and programs that will help child life specialists and providers comfort patients facing kidney diagnosis and procedures.
Although we are encouraged about the evolving story of the MinMinBears, the work is not done. The bears are just getting started in helping communities in various ways, all around the country, and we are excited to watch the good we can do with a sweet, plush teddy bear.