After moving up the ranks at Qwest to Vice President and head of Network Systems, La Verne (calling it a “defining moment”) made the decision to move on after 24 years of service. Her intuition told her she should explore what other adventures and challenges might be out there. The week after “retiring,” La Verne started her new business.
La Verne never forgot how much she loved making teddy bears as a young person and giving them away as gifts. It was now time for her to come full circle, and go back to the joy she felt making the bears – and the happiness they brought to others.
In 2002, La Verne says, “My sister asked for a handmade teddy bear for her birthday. It was July, and what would be more appropriate than a red, white, and blue one. When I designed the bear, I put a heart-shaped patch on its heart, which bears an American flag, giving it a patriotic and brave feel. That’s when I began thinking about bravery and strength and how each of us gets those traits from different aspects in our lives. We surround ourselves with people, items, colors, pictures and various things that lift us and make us strong!”
La Verne continues to explain, “One of the first gift bears I made was one for my niece. She named the bear Foxy. For my niece, sunflowers gave her strength. So 22 years after making Foxy, I made her another bear, decorated with a sunflower patch on its heart. And that’s when BraveHeart Bears were born. They’re the bears that make you strong.”
You fall in love with the high-quality 16” bears when you see them. They warm your heart and make you feel good about buying them. Each bear you buy is a proud supporter of a non-profit organization. With the purchase of a bear, 5 percent goes back to a specific cause.
For those who want to support the families of our troops, “Banner” the Braveheart Bear’s charitable portion will be donated to the “Fisher House Foundation.” (“Banner” is red, white, and blue, and has an American Flag heart on its chest.) The other keepsake bear now available is “SweetHeart” the BraveHeart Bear, and a portion of the proceeds from a purchase will be donated to the “American Heart Association.”
La Verne just opened a kiosk at the Park Meadows Mall right outside of the "Express" store on the second level. They will be there through Valentine’s Day and will also be at the “Pink Purse” in Cherry Creek on February 11th, 12th, and 13th. If you mention you saw the article in Blacktie-Colorado, you will get 10 percent off and can donate the percentage of the purchase back to the organization the bear supports. “SweetHeart” – who is red and white with a heart on its chest - makes a wonderful Valentine’s Day present. You can also take a peek at “Banner” and “SweetHeart” by getting on www.braveheartbears.com.
Coming soon are other BraveHeart Bears. An adorable new pink one will be out soon and go towards a donation to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
La Verne Wilaby is wasting no time putting her dream into action. As many people who have worked with her in the past know, if you want something tactically executed, La Verne is the person who can get things done! She’s been known to make order from chaos - and pull the right team together to make the product successful.
With a clear vision, La Verne sees what she was always meant to do. La Verne smiles and says, “Sometimes when I look at all of the boxes of teddy bears I have, I do say to myself for a moment, ‘What am I thinking!’” It doesn’t take La Verne long though to realize what a difference she can make – one BraveHeart Bear at a time!
*(La Verne proudly says, “My maiden name is Maes. My family is pretty amazing, so it is fitting for my company name to be aMaes, Inc.”)
What was it like being the 10th of 11 children in your family? You had to be tough in a family with 11 children. My parent’s also were foster parents to other kids. It was survival of the fittest! Many times, the older kids took care of the little ones, but you also had to be able to take care of yourself. We are all very strong. When we go back home for a family get-together, there is so much energy around!
What are your hobbies? Other interests? Running, weight lifting, and scuba diving.
What advice do you get from the people around you? “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I’m pretty intense about everything.
What’s important in your life? Friends and family, and spiritual and physical well-being.
If you were to move from your house, what will your home tell its next owner about you? She was a little messy, but she was fun.
What social event is your favorite? I like small, social events like neighborhood parties or close friends getting together.
What fundraising activities are you involved in at this time? I am sponsoring the “American Heart Association” and “The Fisher House” through the sale of my bears. In June, I will have another two bears that will sponsor two additional foundations.
Who are your mentors? Carol Kline, (now CIO at AOL) whom I worked for at Qwest. My brother, Norman and my sister, Bernadette. My friend, Darrell Hand, who has given me so much support and encouragement.
Which book have you read that is your favorite? The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Which magazine is your favorite? Fitness.
Which television show is your favorite? Seinfeld re-runs.
What do you most value in a friend? I value mutual respect, boundaries, discretion and a sense of humor.
What is one thing nobody knows about you? If I tell you then everyone will know.
What make you smile? Spending time with my friends and family; my dogs and cat; animals in general; and talking about BraveHeart Bears.
What is your greatest indulgence? Eating out.
What is your favorite restaurant? John Holly’s Asian Bistro by Park Meadows.
What do you consider your proudest or most significant achievement? Putting BraveHeart Bears together in such a short time.
Which of your projects have you found particularly challenging? People are amazed that from April to December 2004, I was able to put BraveHeart Bears together. I set up the business end of it; insurance to taxes, to the fulfillment - and just about everything else that was needed. That was challenging. The challenge now is the whole marketing and sales part.
Which one word describes you? Determined.
What words would others use to describe you? “She’s tenacious - like a dog with a bone. She doesn’t let go!”
If there were one thing you would change about yourself, what would it be? My feet. I have very tiny feet, and so I can’t fit in “big girl” shoes, which means I have less variety to pick from. Also, I would be more carefree.
If your life were a movie, whom would you like to play you? Sandra Bullock. I think she is funny, and I would grow 8 to 9 inches.
What do you like most about the town or state you live in? My neighbors in Parker are great. Now that I have my own snow blower, I don’t mind the winters at all. I like using my snow blower so much, that I end up cleaning a few of my neighbors driveways also. I love being Miss La Verne to all of the kids in the neighborhood.
Is there another city/state/country that is also special to you? I love the Mayan Riviera and Akumal, Mexico. I love the water, and the people in that region are very friendly.
What made you the person you are today? The people and animals I have encountered throughout my life. The experiences I’ve had with them, lessons I learned from them, and what I gave of myself to them.
What or who is the greatest love of your life? My animals.
What is your most treasured possession? They are not my possessions; but it is my animals. There is a theme going on here.
What is your personal motto – or favorite quote? “Everything happens for a reason.”
What is your current state of mind? I think that it’s all about energy; feeling good and peaceful about what I’m doing – feeling comfortable with who I am. Growing up in a large corporation, in some instances, you are what everyone else wants you to be; now, I’ve just “come into my own!” I tell people though that I feel like the Lily Tomlin character - “Edith Ann” - I’m in the big chair now – and sometimes it’s kind of scary, but exciting.
What are you looking forward to in the future? A continued happy and healthy life.
Is there something you would like to do, that you haven’t done yet? Travel through Europe.
What would you most like to pass on to your family or future generations? The “good will” from my BraveHeart Bears business.
How can someone view and get more information on a “BraveHeart Bear?” By getting on our website: www.braveheartbears.com or calling 1-877-377-BEAR (2327).