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The folk tradition of children toys made by loving hands continues, thanks to an innovative company.

Build A Bear Workshop is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The company updated the timeworn tradition with a chain of stores throughout the country and the world, including one in Indianapolis Castleton Mall, just an hour and a half from Danville.

The expanding upscale mall houses one of the company hundreds of stores that provide children and their adult companions with a one of a kind experience.

Many of those adults wind up with stuffed animals for themselves, as well as for the children.

A trip to a Build A Bear Workshop is like visiting an interactive Santa workshop. People can help but smile when they see bins full of the of animal after animal waiting to be made into a new best friend.

Although teddy bears abound, the selection encompasses many other creatures. The company partnered with other children favorites and now offers Winnie the Pooh, Big Bird and Hello Kitty, in addition to creatures sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund.

A completed version of each stuffed animal sits on a shelf atop each bin to make visualizing the final result of the process easier.

Once a new favorite animal is chosen, the next stop involves giving it a voice, or at least a sound, of its own. This step is optional, but like the clothes the stuffed animals can wear, few customers skip it.

Some are pre recorded, like Big Bird Others can be selected or recorded by the animal owner.

Store Manager Janey Bell said, had people bring in the sound of their infant heartbeat when it was a fetus. They planned to put the animal in the crib with the baby after it was born.

even had terminally ill grandparents record themselves telling their grandchild love you and placing it inside an animal. The child will have it after they gone.

lot of men record their marriage proposals and place that inside one of the animals, she said.

The next step is the stuffing process.

New owners get to choose just how cuddly they like their animals to feel, so cheerful employees add the white fluff gradually until the toys feel just right. They gently stitched together and presented to the beaming girl, boy, woman or man.

The animals take an air bath, which fluffs them up.

Then it time for the naming ceremony, done on a computer instead of in front of a campfire. Adult help is required by the youngest for this step, but everything else can be done without assistance.

Makenzie and Makyla Nelson of Marion, Ind., made Valentine Day bears with their grandparents during a recent trip to the store.

were both Students of the Week at school last week, said Linda Oatis, their proud grandmother. is the third time that we all been here. I feel we making memories with them when we do this together.

But the lure of creating a bear proved irresistible. She created a cuddly friend of her own before the family outing ended a chocolate brown, curly furred teddy she planned to name Corduroy.

Beyers, born in Danville but now a resident of Knightstown, Ind., came with her family to celebrate a milestone in her granddaughter life. Three year old Anna White gave up her pacifier in time for Valentine Day.

The stuffed animal she created at the store was part of that process.

had it sewed right inside her stuffed animal, Beyers said.

Anna showed her newfound independence in another way.

She eschewed the more traditional bears and chose a big eyed pink cat to hold her pacifier. Then she selected an Indianapolis Colts cheerleader outfit, the last one the store had in stock, for its outfit.

Outfits, shoes, accessories and furniture fill the store. One dressing table even holds wigs, complete with slits to ensure a perfect fit, even with the animals ears.

During a recent visit, several birthday parties took place in the store. A Girl Scout troop from Frankton, Ind., visited and each of the 17 scouts left with the house shaped box that holds every new friend.

girls raised the money for this trip. This was their big fundraiser for 2006. Each of them had $30 to spend, and they each got a Girl Scout vest for their stuffed animal, said Mary Lou Taylor, whose daughter, Morgan, is a troop member.
polo ralph lauren factory store coupon grownups can't resist 'building' bears