Valentine’s Day is a day of spreading love and kindness to those around you – a time to give love and feel love in return. Think back to celebrating this love-filled holiday in elementary school—you would give and receive Valentines from everyone in your class. It was a special day with a little extra love and kindness in the air.

But not all kids are in school during Valentine’s Day. Many of our enCourage kids spend Valentine’s Day, and other holidays, in the hospital each year. They are socially isolated, in a scary setting away from their friends and school celebrations, and may not get a special Valentine.

That’s why enCourage Kids is sending our most cuddly friend, Teddy, to hospitals all over the country to provide comfort, love, and extra hugs to pediatric patients on Valentine’s Day.

In 2017, Teddy took an incredible journey from coast to coast – visiting over 20 states and 40 different hospitals. He was spotted with Shahadi Wright Joseph on KidZone TV at Mt. Sinai Kraviz Children’s Hospital in New York City. He helped spread smiles with the music therapy team from the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was seen exploring fish tanks, hanging out with Child Life Specialists, and participating in teddy bear clinics – but most importantly, Teddy brought cheer to children that needed him the most.

And he isn’t stopping there! enCourage Kids is hoping to double those numbers this year and send Teddy to even more pediatric facilities around the country.

Teddy helps spread love and smiles in more ways than one. While he is a cuddly companion that helps normalize the hospital experience for children of all ages, he is also a friend that helps explain medical procedures. Child Life Specialists all across the country use Teddy to help take the anxiety out of a procedure by going through the steps with the child and showing what will happen by using Teddy as an example. This type of medical play helps children feel more in control of the medical process.

Nicole Almeida, Director of the Child Life Program at The Children’s Medical Center at Winthrop University Hospital, shred an impactful story about a young girl who was very anxious about an IV being placed.

“We had given her a bear earlier in her stay and she had become quite attached to it. When my team went in to prepare her for the IV we used the bear to explain all of the steps in what was to happen. Organically, conversation arose and we started ‘talking’ to ‘Beary’ and she was able to describe what really was making her nervous, which was the needle. The child life specialist asked ‘Beary’, ‘what may help to make you less afraid?’ and the reply was to sit on mom’s lap and look the other way when the needle was placed,” Nicole explained.

“It was amazing that through the play with this bear, our patient felt she had a voice, which she could not vocalize on her own. This bear was a safe haven for her to express her fears and concerns about what was going to happen in her own way. It was truly amazing to see this unfold and to empower and provide a voice to this very scared little girl.”

Teddy has been able to deliver not only comfort and smiles to children across the country, but a sense of power to children who often feel powerless in their medical journeys. That’s why, with your help, we’ll be able to send Teddy to even more children that need him the most.

Click HERE to show your love today.