Story & photos by Jessica Boyer/KHTS
More than 9,000 children under the age of 14 come to the Emergency Room at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital every year.
“Parents run out of the house to get the child E.R. treatment and they don’t think about bringing a toy and they’re nervous about the situation,” said Maria Strmsek “It helps the children to be able to hold on to something that comforts them.”
The “something” that Strmsek is talking about are stuffed teddy bears.
“This is our second year hosting this event, it was Maria’s idea. We’d get bits and pieces of bears throughout the years but last year was the first time we had an organized event,” said Carol Jones, president of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. “The bears from last year’s event lasted us all the way through August this year.“
Volunteers met at the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital’s Pavillion Entrance from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday for the “Donate A Bear Day” to collect teddy bears for the hospital.
“All of the teddy bears we collect really calm down children in the E.R. and help them when they’re having a hard time,” Jones said. “They also help the E.R. personnel because the children are not as afraid.”
Several residents of the Santa Clarita Valley dropped off bags of teddy bears. Allied Health And Public Safety at College of the Canyons and the Hyatt Regency Valencia donated bears. The Hyatt Regency Valencia donated more than 120 bears. Ashley Reeff collected 16 bears by calling several people, some in other states.
“This event was started because of National Teddy Bear Day and when I was a kid, I had a tonsillectomy and the hospital I went to gave out little puppets,” Strmsek said. “On their 50th anniversary, I still had my puppet and I started working there.”
Volunteers of Boy Scouts Of America Troop 583, Chad Ferguson, Blake Hollers and Cole Wilson collected the teddy bears while Girl Scouts of America Audrey McIntosh, Madison Hollers handed out flyers. Debbie Hollers, Gayle Jenest, Joanie Stanzione, and Jones transported the bags of bears to the storage location at the hospital.
“We have amazing people, the volunteers that work in the nursing units and Maria gets a lot of youth help as well,” said Tracey Ferguson, administrative assistant to the assistant chief nursing officer at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. “It makes a big difference for the hospital, not just for the people that work here but for the patients as well.”
According to the hospital, 25 children per day, 173 per week, 750 per month, and 9,000 per year come through the Emergency Room doors.
“All of the bears go to patients of Henry Mayo,” said Ferguson. “The ER personnel have gotten really good about handing them out to kids.“
Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital accepts teddy bear donations year-round.
“I’’ve seen it first hand, when a child was screaming his little head off,” said Jones. “I came around the corner with a bear and he was like ‘Okay, this isn’t so bad’.”
Officials from the hospital ask that the teddy bears be new and between 9 and 12 inches.
“You just have to see their little faces,” said Jones. “They are so frightened but they light up when they hold a teddy bear.”