By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Nov 07, 2007 at 5:16 AM

The MyHuggy teddy bear -- a "talking" stuffed animal with the capacity to record and replay voices -- was officially born on Aug. 1, 2006, but for product co-inventor Delberta Cotcher, the idea originated 27 years ago.

In 1980, Delberta, along with her young children, was involved in a hit-and-run accident. She lost her daughter and one of her sons was revived after being pronounced dead for 14 minutes. He suffered neurological disabilities and blindness.

Because of the extent of her son's injuries, Delberta spent endless hours at the hospital, and felt distant from her younger son, Steve, who is her MyHuggy business partner today.

Delberta left tape-recorded messages for Steve when she pulled long shifts at her older son's hospital bedside. She felt this was more personal than leaving notes.

"She would leave me recorded messages that said I should do my homework, what I could have for dinner, that she loved me," says Steve. "And it worked. It allowed me to be a little more involved and feel more important to her."

But Delberta decided the tape recorder was still too impersonal, and fashioned a teddy bear with a tape recorder inside of it. Friends and family were impressed, and urged her to market the bear, but it wasn't the right time.

"It was a great concept, but because of the lack of technology (back then), the idea didn't go anywhere," says Steve.

Years later, Steve joined the Marine Corps, and was deployed for 11 months. When he returned, his 2-year-old son did not remember him.

"I walked across the freight deck and went to give him a hug, but he ran in the other direction when he saw me," says Steve.

Hurt by the experience, Steve decided he wanted to do something to maintain a connection with his son if they were a part in the future.

Finally, a couple of years ago, Steve and his mother discussed the teddy bear she had made for him, and it struck a chord with Steve, who knew the bear would be a great way for deployed parents to communicate with their kids.

The result is MyHuggy, a $59.95 plush bear able to record and play 20-minute messages.


"(MyHuggy) is a tool, an instrument, a means, to alleviate the pain of separation anxiety, feelings of abandonment, and resultant low self-esteem that children experience when separated from a loved one," says Steve. "There's nothing else like it on the market."

Last spring, Steve's wife heard a story on NPR about Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia. The school wanted to send teddy bears to the Shoemaker High School in Killeen, Texas, where more than nine out of 10 students have one or both parents deployed. The Cotchers, being a military family, knew they were the right people to help.

Originally, Steve thought the school needed 500 bears, but later learned it would take 1,500 bears to do the job.

"I had given my word, so I said, 'OK, 1,500 bears,'" says Steve.

The bears were going to be dropped out of helicopters over the campus, but every airplane was tagged for deployment by the time the Cotchers arrived at Shoemaker.

One of the Shoemaker students was very touched by the bear she received, complete with a recorded message from a concerned student in Virginia, and wanted to extend the experience to another school with a high percentage of students  with military parents stationed overseas. Again, the Cotchers complied.

"This company understands the pain of separation," says Steve. "We're happy to help."

In Wisconsin, MyHuggy bears are available at Sprout, A Floral Affair in Mequon and on the company's Web site. The Home Shopping Network will sell the bears in December.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.