FREDERICK, Colo. (CBS4) – In an effort to honor the lives of a family taken too soon, Coloradans came together to help others in honor of Shanann, Bella and Celeste “CeCe” Watts. The trio, as well as unborn son Nico Watts, were murdered by their father in the early hours of Aug. 13, 2018.
After the murders, more than 300 stuffed animals were left in the yard of the Watts Family home, alongside candles and balloons, as a memorial. Strangers, including many children, left their stuffed animals as a tribute to the slain Watts children.
In the weeks to follow, the stuffed animals were collected by Trent John, a man who was visiting the memorial when Shanann’s parents were at the home. He told Frank and Sandy Rzucek he would collect the stuffed animals, and make sure they were given to others in need.
Since then, John organized a sewing initiative, where strangers converted the stuffed animals in to blankets other kids can cuddle with. Eventually, all of them will be given to children in distress, by police officers.
“When something traumatic happens, like this, such a horrible-horrible crime, you have to do something,” said Judy Maxfield, a volunteer who assisted in the project. “We have just taken the bear, in this case, and cut it in half. Then, sewed a blanket in between, so the child will have something to hang on to.”
The stuffed animal blankets have been given to law enforcement across the world. Some ended up in Dallas, others in Los Angeles, and some made it all the way to Tokyo.
“Children who are going through a traumatic event need something to hold onto for their well-being, for their recovery,” Maxfield told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.
John said the stuffed animals were given to the memorial as an act of love, often by younger kids.
“(Some kids) wanted to bring this, and set this out at the memorial, for some deep personal reason,” John said.
Organizers said the majority of the stuffed animal blankets would go to local police agencies. They hoped the items would bring comfort and joy, amid difficult times, to children who would’ve grown alongside Bella and CeCe.
Those who helped make them specifically tried to use material that would remind others of the children who were killed.
“Purple, and pink, which were Bella and Celeste’s favorite colors,” Maxfield said. “Someone described it as sewing light out of darkness.”
“That is the reason we are doing it, to be able to lift someone up,” John said.
The next project involves more sewing for volunteers. After Colorado’s Jessica Ridgeway was murdered years ago, those stuffed animals were collected. John obtained those from the family and is working on sending them to departments around the world.