Published Monday 22nd March 2021

The tradition of a keepsake given to the young relatives of patients at St Michael’s Hospice can continue thanks to the generosity of the charity’s supporters.

For many years, inpatients at the Bartestree-based hospice have been offered a teddy bear to pass on to children close to them. The youngsters can then take the bears home and hug them whenever they want to feel close to their relative or friend.

Before gifting them, patients are invited to dress the bears from a range of donated outfits, but just before Christmas it was feared this might be halted when stocks ran low. However, a simple email to volunteers asking whether anyone would like to knit or sew a jumper led to well over 100 being sent in.  

‘The generosity of our volunteers and wider supporters has helped put a smile on the face of many children with poorly relatives or friends, and the patients themselves,‘ said the Hospice’s Lead Social Worker, Elaine Pawley. ‘Being poorly can be a stressful enough time, and what can often add to this upset is the impact it might have on those younger people in our lives. 

‘So, we offer these teddy bears to patients on the Inpatient Ward which help maintain a loving and lasting connection between the giver and receiver. 

‘The patient can then choose to dress the teddies, if they want to, from the huge range of different outfits we now have before handing them to younger relatives to remember their grandmother, uncle or whoever might be in our care. They can also be given to older relatives, too.

‘Throughout the pandemic, visits haven’t always been possible for everyone, so the bears have taken on a new importance and when children, or whoever has received the gift, want to be close to their loved one, they just give the bear a hug.’

One of those who has knitted around 20 outfits is Denise Powell. ‘I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,’ she said. ‘Not only is it helping others but it gives me great pleasure too. My dad died at St Michael’s in 2018 and he was a great knitter. He was still carrying out the hobby just a couple of days before he passed away. The care he received from the Hospice was wonderful, and I was so inspired by my dad that after he died I took up knitting myself.’

Another supporter, Glynis Moseley, sewed dozens of teddy outfits and says she’s just happy to help.
‘It’s such a lovely idea and if I can use my time to bring some comfort to a distressed child, then it’s time well spent.’  

The success of the knitting plea means the Hospice now has a plentiful supply.

Shirley Knox is one of those whose family has benefited from the bears. While staying at St Michael’s, she said she greatly missed not being able to see her grandchildren, so when Elaine invited her to choose and even dress teddy bears to be sent to her five relatives, she jumped at the chance.

Shirley was so touched by the gesture that she wrote a poem all about the experience:

Sitting in St Michael’s Hospice, desperate for hugs from grandchildren young and old. 

Helping with my predicament, in walked my heart of gold. Elaine Pawley is her name, my knight in shining armour.

In she came with a range of bears, all desperate to take and give hugs. To choose and name these bears so very carefully that each bear keeps its very own individuality.

Really excited at the prospect, I cannot wait to see them – to match the clothes that have been made with so much love to dress them. 

Laid out upon my bed over 2 hours later – different tops, different scarves, different fabrics, different textures. What wonderful decisions to be made to match the right bear with the right outfit.

Each and every bear unique, just like its very new owner, but now has purpose, a way of life and hope for a brighter future.

‘Yes’ explained the little ones by the lights reflected in their eyes. I can’t hug my nanny but my bear can share and pass the hug to where it needs to go. Pass it along with lots of love.

Grandchildren are our future, always visiting me. Ruined by the Covid, hugs stopped immediately.

In St Michael’s Hospice, I think of them once more 

Forever wanting cuddles. FaceTime not enough anymore

In came the wonderful Elaine with a plan for me to ponder 

Teddy bears from the Hospice to send home for joy and wonder xxx