Doug Havell, a Red Deer resident sets up a stuffed bear display on his front lawn to bring a little joy to residents of the Mustang Acres community. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer’s stuffed bear Christmas display brings cheer

Doug Havell has turned his driveway into a Christmas tribute throughout the holidays.

Nearly every day this December, the Red Deer resident trots out about 35 stuffed animals, all dressed in their best Christmas outfits, hoping to bring a little bit of joy to the people in his Mustang Acres community.

“It brings joy to people, oh does it ever,” said Havell with a jolly laugh.

The tradition started because he used to deliver stuffed bears to residents at the Extendicare Michener Hill senior’s home, where his 100-year-old mother lives.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Havell was stuck and couldn’t visit the residents inside the facility anymore. So he decided to start setting up the displays on his driveway and it’s been such a hit, he won’t stop.

He said kids and families stop by all the time to check out his stuffed animals and their smiles bring him plenty of joy.

“They really enjoyed it, those little guys,” said Havell, who set up a display for Remembrance Day.

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Beyond the pandemic, Havell has faced hardships of his own over the past two years and it really hits home around Christmas.

He had a stroke nearly two years ago and just a few days after Christmas last year, his wife Gaetane died. She would have turned 74 on Christmas Eve.

Havell thought about stopping the bear display this year for Christmas, but in honour of his wife, he keeps it going.

“She wouldn’t want me to stop this,” he said.

While those tough days still bring a few tears, Havell recently experienced a Christmas miracle of his own. Four months ago, he was reunited with his long-lost daughter and granddaughter.

“She found me at a time like this– after my wife passed. Who says there’s no Santa Claus,” explained Havell with a laugh.

Havell figures on Christmas Day, he will bring his bears to the Michener Hill senior’s home and set up a mini display outside, for the residents to see.

“They wanted to see these bears, that’s what I did last year,” he said.

“They’re hurting, they need somebody to talk to.”

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