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6-year-old reunited with beloved teddy bear, 1 year later

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Six-year-old Naomi Pascal of Jackson, Wyo., has a dear friend who's been with her for most of her life, a little bear whom she calls Teddy.

NAOMI PASCAL: I first got Teddy in the orphanage. That with my first gift from my parents.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The first gift from her adoptive parents, Addie and Ben Pascal. They sent Teddy to her when she was still in Ethiopia back in 2016, and the fluffy friend became her constant companion.

NAOMI: He would always stay with me.

CORNISH: That was until October 2020. Naomi and her family were visiting Glacier National Park in Montana. And she says when they were heading back home, she noticed Teddy was missing.

NAOMI: We started driving. And I was like, uh-oh, where's Teddy?

CHANG: Naomi's father, Ben Pascal, says they asked the park rangers if someone had seen Teddy. No one had. But they hoped that maybe someone might find him.

CORNISH: And someone did. Park ranger Tom Mazzarisi was working on a trail one day when he and some colleagues spotted Teddy.

TOM MAZZARISI: Most of it was wet from melting snow.

CHANG: Mazzarisi has a lot of experience with bears - I mean, the real kind - and couldn't let Teddy get thrown away.

MAZZARISI: There's something about the little bear. You just knew there's something special about it. And I figured, what better mascot for me than to have this little teddy bear to sit on the dash in my patrol truck?

CORNISH: This summer, from the dash of Mazzarisi's truck, Teddy got to see a few of his fellow bear, friends, wolves and other animals. And while he enjoyed some sightseeing, Naomi and her family resumed their search.

CHANG: In June, her mom, Addie, posted on Facebook asking for help to find Teddy. Her dad, Ben, says people sent well-wishes and offered to keep an eye out.

BEN PASCAL: Then, at the end of September, we got a phone call from our friend, Terri (ph). She had been up to Glacier National Park that day with her niece. And her niece actually was the one that saw Teddy in the dashboard of the ranger truck.

CORNISH: Mazzarisi wasn't working that day, so rangers helped her get Teddy out. Then she popped Teddy in a box and shipped him back to Naomi.

B PASCAL: And there was Teddy with a bunch of candy.

(LAUGHTER)

B PASCAL: He came with gifts for Naomi because he knows Naomi loves candy.

CHANG: Naomi is happy to have her friend back, and the Pascals and park ranger Tom Mazzarisi are planning to meet over Zoom later this week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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