It’s July 2020 and Mara Soriano is in the process of moving house with her partner. But while that’s happening, she notices that the bag containing a very special gift from her late mom has gone missing. Then, after Soriano’s story gets shared on social media, Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds comes up with an idea to help.
A resident of Vancouver, Canada, Soriano plies her trade as a storyboard artist, working on the Octonauts animated children’s TV series. And as we just mentioned, she was preparing to move into her new home over the summer of 2020. However, her plans were disrupted following an upsetting moment on the big day.
Indeed, a friend of Soriano had offered their assistance while she and her fiancé were unpacking their belongings. But on the way there, this individual was knocked off their bike. After hearing the news, the artist quickly sprang into action and headed over to her fallen pal, leaving everything else behind.
Soriano explained what happened next to news broadcaster CNN in July 2020. She recalled, “I dropped everything next to the U-Haul [truck] and just tried to make my way to my friend as quickly as possible. In my rush, I neglected to tell my fiancé that I put [my] bag by the front of the U-Haul.”
“[My fiancé] immediately started unloading the back of [the truck], so he didn’t even know it was at the front,” Soriano added. A few minutes later, the aforementioned bag was then stolen by someone passing by. The Vancouver resident eventually noticed its absence when she returned from the scene of the accident.
The Herschel backpack contained a number of important personal items, like citizenship paperwork. Alongside that, Soriano’s Nintendo Switch console and iPad were in there too, but that wasn’t all. As it turned out, the most significant object inside the bag was a soft toy, and its disappearance left her devastated.
For you see, Soriano had received a teddy bear as a Christmas present back in 2017. It was from her mother Marilyn Soriano, who put the toy together at Build-a-Bear. The stuffed animal was decked out in a white and red dress, along with a jacket and a pair of dark glasses.
Regarding the glasses, Soriano told CNN, “It was [my mom’s] signature look.” In addition to that, the bear also contained an audio recording from the artist’s parent which meant the world to her. According to newspaper USA Today, the personalized message said, “I love you, I’m proud of you, I’ll always be with you.”
However, the heartbreaking context behind those beautiful words solidified Soriano’s attachment to the stuffed toy. Back in 2010, her mom had been informed that she had cancer. Then, a few years after that, she underwent some treatment that lasted for roughly 18 months. Unfortunately, Marilyn’s condition didn’t improve in the end.
At the age of just 53, Soriano’s mother succumbed to her cancer in June 2019, leaving her daughter behind with the bear. After the toy was taken, the Vancouver resident reiterated its significance to her, as she continued to talk to CNN. She said, “I hugged it every time I missed her.”
Meanwhile, Soriano took part in another interview in July 2020, this time with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). During the conversation, she shed some light on her feelings following the bear’s disappearance outside the delivery truck. Not only that, but the professional artist outlined why the recording was so meaningful to her.
Soriano told CBC, “It just makes me feel devastated. I’m absolutely crushed. At [the] hospice [my mom’s] voice was different. Much softer. Not the mom I grew up with. That bear is the last memory I have of her speaking in her normal voice.” At that point, she revealed what she did next.
Once Soriano confirmed that her bag hadn’t been dropped in the delivery truck by accident, she spoke to the caretaker at her new home. After explaining the situation, they looked over the building’s security cameras, hoping to spot something in the film. Before long, the pair stumbled across a shocking sight.
“Lo and behold on the security footage, this guy was seen looking around [in the vicinity of the truck], making sure nobody was looking first,” Soriano informed CBC News. “And he just took the bag and ran. It was just absolutely crushing to me… that was the one thing that was stolen from us.”
Furthermore, Soriano also revealed some additional details about her background, and how that tied into the bear. For you see, Marilyn had given birth to her in the Philippines, the artist spending the first nine years of her life there. At that stage she relocated to Canada, ahead of making Vancouver her home in 2015.
When talking about the stuffed toy, Soriano said, “It’s a reminder of home. The bear has a message in it in Filipino. It says ‘I love you,’ but in our language. So it’s very specific and very unique. I just really want to find my bear. That’s all that I care about.”
Alongside the interviews, Soriano looked to raise awareness of what had happened on social media as well. To begin with, she made a post via her Instagram account on the day of the incident, which included a picture of the bear. And in the accompanying message, the artist laid everything out.
Soriano wrote, “A Herschel backpack full of our important documents was stolen out of an alley in the West End today. In it was my iPad Pro (full of videos of me and my mom not on iCloud) and Apple Pencil, my Nintendo Switch and most importantly, the two last remaining things I have that my mom gave me.”
After revealing that the two items were the bear and a “Mickey Mouse wallet,” Soriano continued, “PLEASE, I don’t care about the electronics. I just want my bear back, and maybe my citizenship card ’cause I can’t do anything without it. If you spot it anywhere, please give me a DM.”
From there, Soriano started to offer daily updates on Twitter, in the hope of finding the missing bear. To aid the search, she began handing out posters around Vancouver too, and even stuck some up in the city. However, the local resident wasn’t alone in her quest on social media.
Indeed, following Soriano’s interview with CBC News, the writer of the resulting article decided to pitch in. Liam Britten sent out a tweet that included a short video of the bear and its audio message. What’s more, a colleague of his named Deborah Goble shared the story on Twitter as well.
Goble’s tweet was fairly significant, as it garnered a large response on the social media website. Her message earned over 51,000 likes and more than 28,000 retweets, while generating in excess of 500 comments from users. Many of those posts saw people discussing how “Mama Bear” could be found.
Sticking with Goble’s tweet, the message was shared by a variety of notable Twitter accounts after she posted it. For instance, the Vancouver Police Department relayed the post later that day. It eventually earned over 500 likes and just under 400 retweets. As for Soriano, she wasn’t shy in showing her appreciation for the support on social media.
Yet it could be argued that Soriano’s story didn’t truly go viral until one other man stepped in. At that stage, hundreds of thousands of users became aware of what transpired in Vancouver thanks to his involvement. As we mentioned earlier, that individual was none other than Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds.
Reynolds is a Vancouver native himself, so he decided to chime in on the social media website. He retweeted Goble’s message via his official Twitter account the next day. However, the famous film star then raised the stakes, hoping that would speed up the return of Soriano’s beloved teddy bear.
In the tweet, Reynolds wrote, “Vancouver: $5,000 to anyone who returns this bear to Mara. Zero questions asked. I think we all need this bear to come home.” Incredibly, that simple message went on to earn more than 345,000 likes and close to 100,000 retweets on Twitter.
On top of that, Reynolds then sent out a second message to sweeten the deal. The actor wrote, “If you #FindMarasBear, I’ll send you so much Aviation Gin it’ll be affected by the tide.” That’s the product that his alcohol business produces. After that, a few more famous faces offered their support too.
From Zach Braff to Dan Levy, those individuals tried to spread the word via Twitter. Meanwhile, some of Reynolds’ followers also got involved, putting up their own cash to add to the initial $5,000. Alongside those kind gestures, a few more people made monetary donations to the facility that had looked after Soriano’s mom while she was sick.
Unsurprisingly, Soriano was taken aback by the overwhelming support, as she spoke to CBC News again in July 2020. On that occasion, the interview took place while she was out searching for the bear in Vancouver. Due to the online traction, though, more people seemed to know about the story around the city.
Soriano said, “I’m so unbelievably grateful for the exposure that [Reynolds has] brought to this kind of story. It’s just unbelievable that someone like him would take notice of someone like me.” As for the search itself, the artist brought the focus back to her late mom, and outlined what she’d be thinking.
With tears in her eyes, Soriano continued, “My mom was the best person that I ever knew. She was so unbelievably kind and so unbelievably generous, and she probably wouldn’t even be mad at the guy who took the bag! She would probably just ask kindly for the bear back.”
Following that talk, Soriano then offered some additional updates on the situation via Twitter. While the bag still hadn’t been retrieved, the Vancouver resident had spoken to two different companies which had wanted to help. She wrote, “Build-a-Bear got in contact with me and so did Herschel about replacing the things that were taken.”
“I know it won’t be the same bear that my mom made with her own hands,” Soriano added. “But now it’ll remind me of her AND the time the world came together for us for a few days.” Despite all of that support, though, her efforts eventually took a mental and physical toll.
After Soriano hailed the hospice facility that had cared for her mother on social media, she wrote up another tweet later in the day. At that stage, she admitted that the hard work was wearing her down. She said, “I’m so tired today you guys. I still have to work full-time [and] finish moving.”
Soriano continued, “And I haven’t slept or eaten properly the last few days. Non-stop talking to the media and walking up and down alleys/streets speaking with people. I think I’m going to take a much-needed rest today.” But in the evening, she received a huge surprise at her home.
Indeed, an unnamed individual sent Soriano an online message at that stage, claiming that they had found her teddy bear. To begin with, the artist wasn’t sure if she believed it, yet she eventually agreed to see the person in a “safe meeting space” alongside a reporter. From there, the group came together.
To explain what happened next, Soriano spoke to broadcaster CTV News via a Skype call in July 2020. She revealed, “We just waited and lo and behold, the two kind Samaritans came, and they gave Mama Bear back. I’m not gonna lie, I kind of buckled. As soon as I saw [him] pull her out of the bag my knees just buckled.”
As it turned out, the anonymous duo had caught sight of the security camera clip that was shared during the search. Incredibly, they knew the individual who had grabbed the bag outside the building, so the pair got in touch with him to retrieve it. It was a huge moment for Soriano, and she quickly let Reynolds know about it online.
In response, Reynolds tweeted, “In happier news…thank you everyone who searched high and low. To the person who took the bear, thanks for keeping it safe. Vancouver is awesome.” While the actor didn’t touch upon the reward, Soriano shed some light on Mama Bear’s first night home with CTV News.
Soriano concluded, “It’s hard to let [the bear] go. I’m going to sleep with her tonight. I’m going to show her the new apartment, it’s just been the wildest three hours. It literally just happened, and I still can’t believe it.” On that note, she also revealed that it’d be present for her wedding in 2021, filling in for her beloved mother.