This stolen teddy bear has a recording of a dying mother's last message. Her daughter wants it back

Mara Soriano doesn't care if she gets her iPad or her Nintendo Switch back. She just wants to recover a precious recording of her mother's voice.

Soriano, 28, said her mother's voice was recorded and put in a custom-made Build-a-Bear teddy bear, which was stolen from her Friday. The audio recording is a final message from her mother, Marilyn Soriano, who died of cancer in June 2019 at age 53.

The bear's disappearance came as Soriano was distracted while moving into a new apartment in Vancouver's West End on Friday.

While she and her fiancé were unloading their U-Haul van, she got a call from a friend who was biking over to help them who said they had been hit by a work van a short distance away.

Soriano immediately put down the bag she was carrying up to the apartment and leaned it against the van. She drove over to her friend in a different vehicle to bring him to his home.

But in her "frazzled state," she said she forgot to tell her fiancé where the bag was. After being unattended for just a few minutes, she said, it went missing. She says someone stole the bag.

"It just makes me feel devastated," Soriano said. "I'm absolutely crushed."

Mara Soriano
Mara Soriano

Soriano said her mother recorded a message for her and had the audio put it in the bear shortly before going into hospice.

"At hospice her voice was different. Much softer. Not the mom I grew up with," she said. "That bear is the last memory I have of her speaking in her normal voice.

"She said that she loved me and she was proud of me and that she'll always be with me."

Also in the bag, Soriano said, were important documents — a book of blank cheques, her citizenship card, her and her fiance's passports and social insurance cards — and valuable electronics — an iPad and a Nintendo Switch.

But she said she doesn't care about getting those items back. She just wants her bear.

Mara Soriano
Mara Soriano

'It's a reminder of home'

Soriano said after looking through all their boxes and calling U-Haul to see if it was left in the van, she asked her building concierge to check the security footage.

"Lo and behold on the security footage, this guy was seen looking around, making sure nobody was looking first," she described. "And he just took the bag and ran."

She said the concierge wouldn't let her have the footage or take photos of the screen without the building manager's permission and the manager won't be able to do that until Monday.

Soriano said she has filed a police report and is asking anyone who has it or sees it to bring it back.

It's a message that is being amplified by some powerful voices on social media, including Vancouver-born Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds who offered a $5,000 reward on Twitter for the bear's return.

"It was just absolutely crushing to me that that was the one thing that was stolen from us," Soriano said.

Along with having the voice of her mother in it, Soriano said the bear is a reminder of home and helps her feel connected to her family.

She was born in the Philippines and moved to Toronto when she was nine. She moved to Vancouver five years ago.

"It's a reminder of home," she said. "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."