Children Receive the Gift of Teddy Bears from The Hope Foundation’s DreamCatchers for Kids™ Program

Non-profit organization takes advantage of technology to deliver stuffed animals to kids battling serious illnesses.

In today’s digital age, you don’t have to look far to find an individual dialed in on a smartphone or tablet. Children especially have become mobile masters of texting, playing games or engaged in the plethora of activities that smart devices offer. And while technology can be a useful tool and entertainment source for kids, it can’t compete with the love, joy and happiness experienced with this special gift that has stood the test of time.

The teddy bear – this soft, cuddly, adorable stuffed animal has warmed hearts and brought smiles to people’s faces for more than 100 years. And the thing is, a teddy bear is much more than just a plush toy, it’s a family member that’s there to provide warmth at the most amazing times and support during the worst moments. It’s a constant companion for life’s most important events.

But it’s the scary and unfamiliar situations when the touch of a furry friend can help ease stress and make everything a little bit better. A teddy bear hug is simple, powerful and universally understood across all languages as a symbol of comfort and peace. For children and their families experiencing fear, such as being in the hospital coping with an illness, the soft hug of a warm and cuddly teddy bear brings cheer and eases those worries.

Research has concluded toys given to children in the hospital in fact reduces the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety and can even accelerate the healing process. Providing that comfort and support to kids battling serious illnesses has been the mission of The Hope Foundation of the Mahoning Valley. Children across the region have lived out their dreams and fantasies through amazing experiences bringing joy and euphoria made. This passion and commitment is synonymous with Build-A-Bear Workshop, which has made it their calling to give children and families enjoyment through a stuffed bear.

This past holiday, The Hope Foundation had an incredible idea to develop an online form in which children and their families at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley could build a stuffed bear from their hospital bed and have it delivered to them. The team reached out to Chris Cunningham, Store Manager at Build-A-Bear Workshop at the Southern Park Mall in Boardman who quickly embraced the concept, and together we turned this vision into a reality. But these wouldn’t just be any ordinary stuffed animals.

Through The Hope Foundation’s DreamCatchers for Kids™ program, each child could create the teddy bear of their dreams, including the name, which clothes to wear and accessories to have, from their hospital bed via tablets. Meanwhile, volunteers from The Hope Foundation gathered at the Build-A-Bear Workshop ready to respond at a moment’s notice to assist Chris and the staff with building the bears as the children submitted their requests.

“Bringing wishes to ill children, big or small, is the mission of DreamCatchers for Kids,” states Heather Fronk, volunteer with The Hope Foundation of the Mahoning Valley. “Being a part of The Hope Foundation and participating in such a heartwarming opportunity and seeing the kids’ eyes light up as they received their teddy bear was truly extraordinary.”

In all, a total of eight (8) stuffed bears were built and hand delivered to children and their families at Akron Children’s within a few short hours of being ordered. “The ability to bring the Build-A-Bear experience to the children and for that moment in time relieve their pain was priceless,” says Rey Esparra, DreamCatchers for Kids member. “Seeing the kids’ faces light up when we delivered the bears was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever been a part of!”

A teddy bear isn’t just a stuffed animal. It’s a best friend, a family member, someone you can count on at your best and worst moments. The value children place upon a teddy bear is invaluable and can cultivate a positive mindset needed to achieve healing. 

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