FEATURE | Posted Feb. 25, 2015

Build-A Bear bonding

One patient family brings cuddly new friends to kids at UC Davis Children’s Hospital

View video of Build-a-Bear event at UC Davis Children's Hospital

UC Davis Children’s Hospital patients received new cuddly friends, when Build-A-Bear Workshop hosted an event in the pediatric playroom this month.

It was the second year in a row that patients received a visit from Build-A-Bear Workshop in Roseville. The idea for the event was first born when Jason and Christina Love, parents of UC Davis pediatric cancer patient Emily Love, visited the store two years ago with their children. When the store manager Barbara McDonald took the children through the special heart ceremony, they knew they were witnessing something special.

“I started crying and my husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘We have to bring this to the kids in the hospital,’” said Christina Love.

Christina Love © UC Regents“I started crying and my husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘We have to bring this to the kids in the hospital.’”
— Christina Love, mother of UC Davis patient

The Love family asked their friends and family to donate $30 to buy a new stuffed animal for a child in the hospital. Through crowdfunding website Tilt.com, they soon raised more than $1,200 within weeks. Working with McDonald and her staff at Build-A-Bear Workshop in Roseville and the UC Davis Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department, they were able to successfully to turn what was a dream into reality.

Bears, kittens, dogs and monkeys in a rainbow of colors greeted children in the pediatric playroom. After kids selected their animals and picked red satin hearts, Build-A-Bear staff led children through the special heart ceremony, which included closing their eyes and making a wish on the hearts.

After hearts were tucked safely inside their new furry friends, UC Davis medical students sutured them up with tender loving care.

Each animal was given a new home, a cardboard box resembling a house, which could be colored and decorated. Children also received a birth certificate for their new friend.

Shena Thayer was one of the first to arrive in the pediatric playroom with her daughter, Fia. "She was so excited to pick a stuffed animal. She picked a pink kitty and put three hearts in it," said Thayer, watching her daughter hug her new kitten.

Patients in the Pediatric and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and the Pediatrics Unit, who didn’t feel well enough to visit the playroom, received a bedside visit.

“It was amazing just getting to watch the excitement of the kids. The little ones were just kicking their feet. They were so excited they could pick out a stuffed animal,” said Christina Love. “And the wishes that the kids made, just wishes for things that they don’t have right now … it was just moving.”

The event was all that Jason and Christina Love had wished for. More than 60 stuffed animals were given away to patients and their siblings, putting smiles on children’s faces and giving them a new friend to provide comfort at night.

“While our daughter Emily was in the hospital, different groups would visit and do activities for the kids. It really brightened up Emily's day and for us as parents, it was so nice to know that people cared and took the time to cheer up children that they didn't even know," said Christina Love. "It's so nice to be on the other side of it now, helping other children and other parents in the same situation."