Yammy Bear reflects on trip to Uvalde

(ABC 6 News) – A symbol of positivity in Rochester was called to help the children of Uvalde Texas heal. Yammy Bear was asked by those in Uvalde to make the nearly 1,300 mile trip to the site where a mass shooting took place a Robb Elementary School.

He went down there to help Uvalde families heal, but he also experienced some healing himself. The man behind Yammy Bear, Charles Jackson, was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease right before his Uvalde trip. Jackson said he had to convince his doctors to postpone his chemotherapy treatment so that he could go help Uvalde first.

The disease is called AL Amyloidosis, and it affects the heart, kidneys, liver and nerves.

"Believe it or not, but, I talk to the bear all the time, to keep him encouraged, to keep him focused on the mission. And he also encourages me," Jackson said of Yammy Bear. "It’s Yammy Bear who’s the one that’s bringing the people in. Not me. He’s very sociable, very loving, caring, humble."

But it was Charles who decided that Yammy Bear needed to bring that loving and caring energy to Uvalde.

"To be a part of that grief, and to be a part of the healing process through dancing, through laughter, through taking pictures."

After a horrific six weeks, the grieving families and community said they will remember how Yammy Bear made them feel.

"It’s for the kids. It’s for them to enjoy, and get out and try to, you know, get stuff out of their system. It just shows that there is good people out there," said Isabel Silguero, who lost two of her nieces, Nevaeh Bravo and Jailah Silguero, in the shooting.

"I could feel the energy — even to my office. I was over there dancing and I haven’t danced probably since the tragedy. So that was huge," said Cristina Arizmendi, whose cousin, Eva Mireles was one of the teachers killed.

Charles is encouraging people to step up and volunteer their time in their neighborhood, but also in neighborhoods across the country.

"If you have a desire of reaching out to kids and the elderly and people like us — reach out. Not just in your community but in other communities. That’s what’s going to make it valuable. People are going to cling on to you because of that love that you have for them," Jackson said.

That love is what is driving this bear to give back. But this bear could use some love too.

"His doctor told us that without treatment he has a 10-13 month life-expectancy, but with treatment he can expect to live decades," said CarolAnn Jackson, Charles’s wife.

Diagnosed with a rare disease, Charles put aside his own health to heal others. Upon his return to Rochester is chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Because those treatments weaken his immune system, he’ll be forced to isolate — something that goes against the very nature of Yammy Bear.

"Trying to figure out how we’re going to do what we do is already an issue. But now, how are we going to provide for our six children that are still at home?" CarolAnn said.

But despite everything, Charles is hopeful. He said while he spent his week in Uvalde giving back, the people of Uvalde gave him something in return.

"There’s so many people that we got in contact with that I can use to help me heal. And this is also a healing process just to be here also," Jackson said of his time in Uvalde.

His message: you don’t need a special persona or a bear suit to help make change.

"You don’t have to have a mask on, alright? It’s about the heart."

Charles and CarolAnn just ask for the community’s love and support during Charles’s treatment. They will be fundraising for medical costs in the coming weeks.