The season of giving at Christmas is important for Fort Loudoun Medical Center.
Hospital staff and volunteers are again collecting teddy bears in hopes of brightening patients' visits throughout the year.
Marketing coordinator Ashley Hankla said the hospital welcomes new teddy bears and stuffed animals of all kinds. The annual teddy bear drive is used to collect bears for pediatric patients and others yearning for a soft hug during a potentially frightening visit to the hospital.
“It definitely helps decreases their anxiety when they are here in the hospital,” Hankla said. “You say that word going to the doctor or talk about shots, and that's a big deal. If anyone has a shot they know it's painful. They know it's not always going to be a pleasant experience for them while they are here, so it definitely decreases their anxiety and helps take their mind off of why they're here so the doctors and staff and parents can focus on treating them so we can get them out quicker.”
FLMC's annual tree lighting celebration, which was at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the hospital's main lobby, kicked off the drive. The Central United Methodist Church choir and Philadelphia Elementary School children's choir sang carols to ring in the holidays.
“We try to do whatever is going to make people more comfortable. It's bad enough just being in the hospital without any visitors. People are lonely and afraid. We just do whatever we can,” Dorothy Brozak, volunteer coordinator, said.
Throughout the year, hospital staff and volunteers will hand out bears to nervous pediatric patients, their young siblings, the elderly and anyone else they feel needs a hug.
Hankla's young son Jayden recently visited the hospital to get stitches.
“He was a nervous wreck. ... (A volunteer) brought him that big thing before he had the stitches, and he was all like, ‘Mom, how are we going to get it down the hall? How are we going to drive it home?' That really made a difference for him because it's just hard,” Hankla said.
The idea began when members of New Providence Baptist Church started collecting teddy bears for the hospital to give to patients. Brozak said the hospital staff has spearheading the drive ever since, but the community jumped on board.
To donate, drop off a new teddy bear at the main lobby information desk. For more information, call 271-6026.