A trip to Florida led to heartbreak for an Iowa family. On the vacation, the Atkinsons lost a priceless family treasure: A stuffed elephant that contains a bag of their son’s ashes.
“I need him back,” pleaded mother Liz Atkinson in a recent Facebook post.
Atkinson’s son Gabryel died last year at age 7. He was born with a rare chromosomal abnormality, and during his short life, he was constantly in the hospital and had more than 50 procedures. Throughout it all, his stuffed elephant Bruce was by his side. Bruce was given to Gabryel when he was a baby in NICU, and he became a constant companion and source of comfort for the little boy.
After Gabryel’s death, the Atkinsons wanted to keep Bruce and Gabryel together, so they used the elephant to hold some of their son’s ashes.
When the family recently vacationed in Florida and spent time at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, they wanted to bring Gabryel and Bruce along. Unfortunately, in the chaos of the return trip, Bruce was misplaced.
His mother, Liz Atkinson, is now begging for help in finding her son’s ashes on Facebook:
“Our son, Gabryel passed away before we could make it to Disney,” she writes. “For his birthday this year we took our surviving son, Sebastyan, on the trip…Bruce, of course, was brought on our trip and small bag of our son’s ashes were inside the pouch on Bruce’s back. The trip was a bit hectic with 3 different cities and hotels and grief brain kicked in at some point with all of the emotions, making me really struggle with simple memory tasks.”
The mom went on to say that she thought Bruce was in the car somewhere, but once they got back home, she couldn’t find the precious stuffie.
“I’ve called each of the places listed above and filled out a lost and found form on Disney’s page,” she wrote. “No one has found him.”
“I feel sick, struggling to sleep. I’m desperate.”
The family has already checked with every hotel and resort they stayed at during their trip. No sign of Bruce has been found. In a post on Facebook outlining their itinerary — and potential locations where Bruce might’ve been left behind — Atkinson lists stops for parasailing in Cocoa Beach, Florida, on April 24; Disney Springs and The Palazzo in Kissimmee, Florida, from April 24-25; and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort from April 25-May 1.
In an update, the mom shared that the parasailing company helped them search there.
“Update: thank you to Adam at the cocoa beach marina, we know Bruce made it into the car with Sebastyan after parasailing and was not dropped in the parking lot there.”
The family now thinks Bruce was lost at either The Palazzo or Art of Animation Resort, and they’re hoping that if more people hear their story and share the Facebook post, someone will find and return Bruce.