KATY, Texas -- Bennett Nester looks like a pretty typical three year old. He loves trains, chases, and his bear, but he is far from typical.
"He has always been a very active child and he started falling down a lot and holding his head," said Randy Nester, Bennett's father.
The mystery would put Bennett in Texas Children's Hospital the week before Christmas 2011. He was diagnosed with a tumor pressing on his brain stem.
At that lowest time came a present, from two sisters who'd lost a sibling to cancer years before.
"The gift they gave him was a Build-A-Bear," Randy said.
It was a simple message, "These are for the kids who don't go home for Christmas," the gift givers told Bennett.
"Right then we said we are doing this next year. We have to pay this forward," Randy said.
Bennett's Bears was born. The idea is simple -- gather up Build-A-Bears to give back, and they have.
More arrive to the Nester’s Katy home every day -- not just a stack, or a pile.
"It is overwhelming," Randy said. "My garage is full."
Last year Bennett's Bears gathered 250 just from word of mouth and a website. This year there are more than 400 bears, from Bikers to Ballerina's, even a Santa or two!
The next part of this project -- the payoff -- is the delivery of these hundreds of bears to Texas Children's Hospital. Bennett won't be able to participate because the next time he is at the hospital, he will be in the hospital.
"We have been through six months of chemo and have another 12 months to go, and at that point they will be able to decide what the next step is," Randy said.
But Bennett's Bears will be there first for the kids not lucky enough to get to go home at the toughest time of year.
"It is fantastic. We smiled for a very long time," Randy said. "You are able to put a smile on their face for a few minutes and make them feel like they are not in a hospital bed. Make them feel like they are at home again."
Bennett knows all these bears in his garage have him in mind, but they aren't home yet. Bennett's illness is not contagious, but his joy sure is.
Click here to learn more about the project and Bennett.
If you would like to do something to Pay It Forward to someone in need or if you have a need with which you could use some help, please click here for more information.