LGBT party supplies Children’s Health with many of the bears needed each year to comfort kids

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The day after the Teddy Bear Party, the bears are delivered to Children’s Medical Center. (Photo courtesy Children’s Health)


DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Each of the 30,000 children who come out of surgery each year at Children’s Health have a teddy bear with them. That teddy bear will have a similar operation. And the child and the bear will heal together.

Those teddy bears come from donations and the largest donation of stuffed animals comes from the Teddy Bear Party, which takes place Dec. 3 at 6500, an event space on Cedar Springs Road across from Love Field.
Jason Hanna began the Teddy Bear Party six years ago.

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The Teddy Bear Clinic at Children’s Health makes any procedure easier for kids to understand. (Photo courtesy Children’s Health)

“My mom was diagnosed with cancer,” Hanna said. “In honor of what she was going through, we started the Teddy Bear Party because her passion was kids, family and equality.”

So they collected teddy bears and began donating them to Children’s Health, where Hanna’s cousin Mitch Hall works.
Hall explained that the teddy bears aren’t just for the children to cuddle when they’re scared and feeling sick. Although the stuffed animals certainly fill that need well.

“Something as simple as a teddy bear can be incredibly powerful,” Hall said. “It can help to ease a child’s fears, recover from surgery, and understand, cope and heal from their procedures.”

The bears actually go through the procedures the child will experience first in the Teddy Bear Clinic.

“Our amazing team members at Children’s Health use teddy bears to demonstrate and explain surgical procedures and reassure patients,” Hall said. “If the kiddo gets an IV, so does the teddy bear. Patients wake up after their procedures with their teddy bears, and the bears become their best friends, their confidantes — they give them hope and lift their spirits.”

Thresa Belcher, director of child life and social work at Children’s Health, recounted a story of one little girl who was recently admitted to the ICU.

“A lot of invasive medical care happened very quickly and much of it was happening simultaneously,” she said. “There were at least five medical care providers including nurses, doctors and technicians at her bedside. As a child life specialist, I went to the bedside to provide support and help her understand what was happening.”

To keep the girl’s neck stable she needed to have a c-collar put on but it was uncomfortable and she became distraught and scared.

“We discussed a variety of ways to calm down and she said that a stuffed animal would help her,” Belcher said.  “I brought her a stuffed animal who she immediately began to hug close. I also brought a teaching c-collar to allow her to better see what she could feel on her neck but could not see.  She looked at and touched the c-collar and then told me we needed to put it on her bear.  She said the bear was going to wear the c-collar as long she needed to wear her collar.”

Hanna said he likes to think the Teddy Bear Party has come full circle for him.

He and his husband Joe Riggs have two sons who are now in their terrible twos. When one of the boys was nine months old, he had to have a medical procedure and they took him to Children’s. While his son was too young to use the mock hospital, Hanna said the teddy bear he got was certainly comforting. He was clutching it as he went in for treatment and cuddling it when he woke up a few hours later.

Now, at two years old, the bear he go Hanna said he likes to think that the bear his son has is one of the bears that was donated at one of the teddy bear parties.

Since its inception, the Teddy Bear Party has been growing. That small teddy bear collection the first year in honor of his mom grew into a party and an annual memorial to her. The party grew so much from year to year, that until this year, they’ve had to find a new venue for the party because they’d outgrown the previous year’s location. This is the first year the party returns to the same venue for a second year.

Each person attending is asked to make a donation — $50 for general admission and $150 VIP — as well as bring a teddy bear. The cost of the party is underwritten by corporate sponsors, so all donations go to the beneficiaries.

The Teddy Bear Party at 6500, 6500 Cedar Springs Road. VIP at 7 p.m. General admission at 8 p.m. on Dec. 3. $50 online at TeddyBearParty.org. $75 at the door with a teddy bear.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2016.