Correctional Facilities Answer “Teddy Bear 911” Call

Stuffed-Animal-Donation-web-260x152IRVING – A tragic accident on the NYS Thruway earlier this year led to two young children being brought to Lake Shore Health Care Center’s emergency department in a terrified state.  Due to the traumatic nature of the incident, two State troopers on the scene decided to bring teddy bears to the children at the hospital in the hope that it would help take their mind off from what they were going through.  Though those children escaped the accident with only minor physical injuries, they would find out that day that they had lost two of their family members in the crash.

“Seeing the positive effect the bears had on the children, Gawronski decided that the hospital should keep a supply on hand for similar situations in the future like had been done in years past.  She realized that more than 1,000 children come through the Emergency Department at Lake Shore Health Care Center each year.  Whether they are accompanying a loved one or receiving treatment themselves, a trip to the hospital can be a scary situation for many of them.  Having a supply of teddy bears on hand for the ED staff to give to children can make them feel more at ease and distract them from their surroundings.
At first, the idea was start a teddy bear drive for employees of TLC Health Network.  However, when Molly Kennedy, Supervisor of Correctional Facility Volunteer Services for the Western Wende Hub heard about the drives through an employee of TLC she was quick to offer the support of the Collins, Gowanda, and Lakeview correctional facilities.  In a matter of days, the three facilities rallied together and created a program they dubbed as “Teddy Bear 911” to support their local health system.

To maximize efforts, Kennedy pitched the idea of holding simultaneous drives at each of the facilities and making it a “friendly competition” to see who could collect the most small- to medium-sized, new stuffed animals. Monetary donations were also sought.

Together, the three facilities collected 182 stuffed animals and one book. Gowanda’s Inmate Liaison Committee (ILC) donated $500 toward the cause, and the two ILC’s representing Collins Side I and Collins Side II contributed a combined total of $300. An additional $25 was collected at Lakeview from individual employees.  Monetary donations are also anticipated from the employee unions and employee committees. TLC plans to use the money to purchase special blankets to keep on hand to give to adolescents and adults as a comfort measure for those age groups as well.

As for the competition, it was an extremely close race, but the Gowanda correctional facility came out on top by a single donation in the end. Gowanda collected 65 stuffed animals, followed by Collins with 64, and Lakeview with 53.  The facilities now hope to make this an annual charitable project.

“Our staff takes great pride in helping out such a worthy cause,” stated Kennedy, “and the inmates feel so rewarded when they are able to contribute and give back to the community.  Many of our employees are local, so we were really happy to support Lake Shore in any way we can.”

During the donation presentation at Lake Shore Health Care Center, it was clear that some members of the TLC’s staff were moved by the support they were receiving from the correctional facilities.  One of the nurses actually had tears in her eyes as she expressed her gratitude to the group.

Echoing the sentiment, Scott Butler, Vice President of Strategy and Market Development added, “We are incredibly grateful for the generosity and thoughtfulness of Ms. Kennedy and the Collins, Gowanda, and Lakeview correctional facilities.  Our patients mean the world to us at TLC, and being able to provide added comfort to them through these stuffed animals and blankets is a blessing.  We hope all involved are very proud of what they have done to support our health system and our community.”


Pictured in Photo (from left to right):  John Galati (TLC); Roseanne Mahoney, RN (TLC); David McKnight, RN (TLC); Amanda Gunther (Gowanda); Tom Sticht (Gowanda); Donna Northrup (Lakeview); Molly Kennedy (Collins, Gowanda, Lakeview); Dave Bobseine (Gowanda); Shannon Bobseine (TLC); Taylor Hall (Lakeview); Patti Dole, RN (TLC); Ernie Dole (Collins); Patti Zaccagnino (Collins); Shannon Gawronski, RN (TLC); Tom Flynn (Collins)