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How a simple gift of a toy cat restored precious memories for Kamloops family

Cali the cat: A simple gesture from an Alberta family restored a memory and kindled a friendship.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Jennifer Hanson
May 22, 2021 - 7:30 AM

A toy cat named Cali has travelled from Alberta to B.C. to Quebec, connecting strangers, bringing joy and creating friendships.

The story is truly unique. The adventure started in Kamloops, B.C. with residents Jennifer Hanson and her boyfriend Steve Cyr. Last month, the couple was watching videos of Steve’s mother who passed away from cancer last fall.

“My boyfriend had a memory pop up on his Facebook,” Hanson said. “It was a video of his oldest daughter, Leah, and his mom playing with this toy cat his mom had bought. It was Leah’s favourite toy. The video made Steven tear up because last fall we lost his mom to cancer. Add to that, his family house burned down in 2017 and everything was lost, including the toy cat.”

That night Jennifer waited until Steve was sleeping and then went to her computer on a mission to find a replica of the toy. She found an exact match on Marketplace, located in Whitecourt, Alta. She messaged the seller and told her the story. The seller, Conni Benson, sent a message back.

“We have that exact kitty still,” Conni wrote. “My daughters and I would love to donate her to your family. It will give us great joy to put a smile on some faces during this dark time. I will wipe the toy down and package it for shipping.”

Jennifer's son Mason with Steve holding Cali the cat in Kamloops.
Jennifer's son Mason with Steve holding Cali the cat in Kamloops.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Jennifer Hanson

Jennifer says she was "blown away" by the kindness of the Whitecourt family. The toy was shipped to Kamloops and Steve carried it with him to Quebec to surprise his daughters with it. Steve works in Kamloops at a mine while his daughters are living provinces away, a situation resulting from the pandemic.

“Steve’s family misses his mom so much,” Jennifer said. “When the house burned down all that was left was a pile of metal where the fridge and stove had been. They lost everything. I have already replaced a wind up music box for him that he had growing up. I know these aren’t the originals but it is absolutely amazing to see the pure joy as they physically hold a memory.”

After the toy arrived in Quebec, Jennifer sent photos of the happy occasion to Conni and her family. The response was emotional.

“We are officially tearing up,” Conni wrote. “The girls say they feel joy at seeing all of the smiles. Thank you for sharing your touching story. I am sorry for your loss. We are grateful to have played a small part in a happier ending for your loved ones. We couldn’t think of better people for Cali the cat to go to.”

The Whitecourt family then sent back a video, from their little girls to Steve’s, introducing themselves in French.

“Please know we did not do this for attention,” Conni wrote. “It was a simple gesture for a deserving family. A small token of kindness to show kindness is still out there and that love will always win. This was also a learning experience and lesson about the importance of giving without expectations.”

The families intend to stay in contact. Jennifer and Steve plan to remember the kindness given and to pay it forward when they can. They wanted to share this story to lift spirits during tough times.

Steve's daughter Leah with Cali the cat at home in Belcourt, Quebec.
Steve's daughter Leah with Cali the cat at home in Belcourt, Quebec.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Steve Cyr

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