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Family loses toy elephant with son’s ashes during trip to Disney

A mother is desperate to find a lost stuffed elephant holding her late son’s ashes.

Liz Atkinson said Bruce the elephant came to visit Florida with his family from Iowa. He posted about the missing elephant on Facebook Friday with a plea for help finding the toy. A small bag of his son’s ashes was inside a pouch on Bruce’s back.

“I feel sick, struggling to sleep. I’m desperate,” she wrote.

Atkinson’s son Gabriel suffered from a chromosome 9 abnormality, he said. He was given a stuffed elephant while in the NICU. It accompanied Gabrielle through more than 50 surgeries, procedures and hospitalizations before her death.

“She slept with it every night and since her death my husband and I have kept it in our bed with us,” Atkinson wrote.

Mother Liz Atkinson said Bruce the elephant went missing during a family trip to Florida. It belonged to her late son and had a small bag of his ashes.

Liz Atkinson/Facebook

Gabriel died last year, just 16 days before his 8th birthday, Atkinson said. For his birthday this year, the family went to Disney with their surviving son, Sebastian.

They were in Cocoa Beach and at Beachside Resort from April 22-24, Atkinson said. Bruce went on a parasailing trip with the elephant family on April 24. Sebastian caught him in the boat.

“This is where the trip gets dark in my memory because of emotion and sadness,” Attkisson wrote on Facebook. “Thinking back, I don’t remember Sebastian bringing her back to our car.” After parasailing, Atkinson did not see Bruce, although he thought the elephant, along with his son’s ashes, were somewhere among their belongings.

Afterward, the family went to Disney Springs and stayed at the Palazzo in Kissimmee until April 25, Atkinson wrote. They stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation until April 30.

“Once we got home on May 1st, I searched everywhere,” she wrote on Facebook. “Every bag. She’s gone. I called every place listed above and filled out a lost and found form on Disney’s page. No one found her.”

Since posting her plea on Facebook, she has learned that her son, Bruce, was caught on camera at the Cocoa Beach Marina taking the family car, Atkinson said. When the car pulled away, the stuffed elephant was not on the ground.

“I never thought in a million years that struggling with grief would weaken my memory so much that I would forget him somewhere and I tried very hard to make sure he was always in a bag or in my arms so that wouldn’t happen,” she wrote.

Atkinson is asking people to share her post to spread the word. He has asked anyone who has information to contact him.

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Aliza Chasan

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