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Beloved teddy bear left at Milwaukee Airport back home where it belongs

Feb. 19, 2022
5 min read
Beloved teddy bear left at Milwaukee Airport back home where it belongs
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The good news is that 5-year-old Ezekiel Burnett of Euless, Texas, is back together with a beloved teddy bear he’s had since he was a baby.

But just as heartwarming is the story behind how “Original Teddy” found his way back into Ezekiel’s arms. The lost and found tale includes a holiday trip to see grandma, kids being kids, a rush to make the flight home, big hearts at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) and the internet.

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(Photo courtesy of Southwest)

As Ezekiel’s dad, David, told TPG, after a Thanksgiving holiday visiting relatives in Wisconsin, the family was flying home to Texas out of MKE. “We were in the terminal; our kids were blowing off steam. And we're in the kiddie play area just trying to release some energy and Ezekiel started throwing his teddy bear up in the air.”

Somehow the teddy bear got stuck up in the rafters. “I told Ezekiel I didn’t think we were going to be able to get it down. And as soon as I said that the flight started boarding and we had to leave.”

Burnett said an upset Ezekiel told the gate agents that he lived in Euless, Texas, and asked them to send him the teddy bear if they could get it down. But when he got on the plane, Ezekiel became distraught because he realized the gate agents didn’t have his street address. “That’s when he lost it,” said Burnett. “He cried the entire way home.”

Somehow, the teddy bear stayed stuck in the rafters for several months and was only turned in at MKE’s Airport Information Desk as a found item when it fell out of rafters in early January. That’s when the team at MKE went into action, turning to social media in hopes of finding the lost teddy bear’s owner.

Millions of people saw MKE’s social media posts about the lost bear. And finally, Ezekiel’s mom spotted the bear on a Facebook post a friend had shared. “She couldn’t even speak. Her hands were shaking,” David Burnett told TPG.

The Burnetts contacted MKE and shared photos of Ezekiel and the teddy bear that proved the teddy bear was indeed Ezekiel’s “And, honestly, I just thought they would send the bear back to us in a box via USP or FedEx,” Burnett said.

But instead, MKE and Southwest Airlines flew Ezekiel and his dad to Milwaukee for a reunion held this past Tuesday. And they pulled out all the stops.

(Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Airport)

There were streamers, balloons, an archway, and swag for Ezekiel that included hats, T-shirts and other fun stuff from the airport and from Southwest Airlines.

One of the gifts MKE gave Ezekiel is a new teddy bear in a pilot’s outfit that he named, appropriately “Pilot Teddy.” That meant the bear Ezekiel had flown in to retrieve needed a name too. Ezekiel now calls his first teddy bear “Original Teddy” and told TPG that the whole adventure made him “super happy and super excited.”

Ezekiel’s dad told TPG he was impressed with the “tremendous hospitality and genuineness” that the airport and Southwest Airlines showered on his son. “It was just a teddy bear. But they made Ezekiel feel important and that really meant a lot to us.”

(Photo courtesy of Southwest)

The reunion also meant a lot to MKE. In addition to the satisfaction of reuniting a boy with his beloved teddy bear, the event helped Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport set records on all its social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.

“In fact, the MKE Airport TikTok page now has more followers than any airport in the world,” said Harold Mester, MKE’s director of public affairs and marketing. “And this is helping us promote MKE as an easy, travel-friendly airport that genuinely cares about its passengers.”

Fans of MKE already know the airport is travel-friendly. In addition to a post-security “Recombobulation Area,” amenities at MKE include a free aviation museum – the Mitchell Gallery of Flight – a winter coat check service and Renaissance Books, offering a surprisingly wide collection of new, used and rare books.

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of Southwest)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

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  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases