Chain of 10,000 teddies to be displayed in memory of toddler Ava

Ava Cottle's mum Cherry and friend Sam Gosby with the teddy bear chain

Ava Cottle's mum Cherry and friend Sam Gosby with the teddy bear chain - Credit: Cherry Cottle

Thousands of teddy bears forming a "chain of kindness" in memory of a Dagenham toddler are set to go on display.

Two-year-old Ava Cottle died in March after battling leukaemia.

Family friend Sam Gosby came up with the idea for Ava's Chain of Kindness as a way of spreading kindness in her honour.

It started at Hunters Hall Primary School where Ava’s brother, nine-year-old Huntley-Joe, is a pupil.

Ava Cottle

Ava, two, with mum Cherry - Credit: Ellie Hoskins

The first bear in the chain was decorated by Ava herself.

Sam said: "She did her colouring on the Saturday and passed on Sunday morning (March 14).

"That's telling you - 'now we have to carry on'. Her bear will always be at the front of the chain."

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Now bears from across the country are to be added to the chain, with supermarket giant Morrisons supporting the campaign.

teddy bear chain

Children have written messages for Ava on the bears - Credit: Cherry Cottle

People will be able to visit their nearest store, decorate a teddy bear and write a message; the bear will then be sent back to Dagenham and eventually added to the chain.

Donations of £1 are being asked per teddy, with funds raised going to Young Lives vs Cancer.

The charity, previously known as Clic Sargent, supported Ava and her family, according to mum Cherry.

She told the Post: "They helped us a lot when I was in hospital with Ava and they still do now. They're always checking in on us. It was fitting that it had to be that charity that we raise money for - giving back for their help to us."

Cherry said she is excited to see the chain go on display at Valence House Museum from October 25.

"It's amazing. To see all the bears the kids have done - some of the messages are so beautiful. A lot of the children don't even know us and to put a message on there for us is so lovely."

A bear-themed day of fundraising activities - including a bear hunt, a tombola, bake sale and raffle - is planned there on October 27 between 10am and 5pm.

After a week, the chain will be moved to City Hall.

The chain was started at Hunters Hall Primary School

The chain was started at Hunters Hall Primary School - Credit: Cherry Cottle

Sam, who has known Cherry for 35 years, has already received messages from as far afield as Scotland, she said.

For her, knowing a child has benefitted from the campaign is vital.

"I'm really proud of it - it blows me away sometimes. I want it to reach out to every child, for every child in the UK to do a bear.

"It does really help wellbeing and it does help the children's mental health.

"If we can just help one child, then this is all worth it."

She described Ava as a "very happy" child, adding: "She was always smiling. Nothing got to her."

The little girl was surprised with an afternoon of fun in January by supporters.

Ava patted horses from the Metropolitan Police and met a goat and chicken from Wellgate Community Farm.

Ava Cottle and family with mounted police

Police horses came to meet Ava in January - Credit: Ellie Hoskins

A cow was transported from Beeches Farm in Wickford, while characters from her favourite TV show Peppa Pig joined the fun.

Becky Clements, fundraising and engagement manager at Young Lives vs Cancer, said: “We were so sorry to hear about Ava – it’s really wonderful to see Sam doing such a fantastic thing to connect children around the UK with the support of Morrisons colleagues and customers, creating something positive in Ava’s memory.

“When cancer strikes young lives, we fight tirelessly to limit the damage it causes beyond their health.

"We rely entirely on donations to fund our vital work and so we can’t thank Sam enough for her fantastic efforts."

To donate, visit https://www.justgiving.com/team/avacottlefund or text CHAINOFKINDNESS and the number relating to the amount you wish to donate to 70450.

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