2,000 patients receive Bear Necessities as community comes together to support Markham Stouffville Hospital

For patients spending time in hospital beds, especially during the holidays, it’s often the small gestures that can bring the most comfort.

Like the gift of a teddy bear. 

At MSH, teddy bears are an impactful gift for patients — and for the hospital itself. In 2016, the hospital launched the Buy a Bear campaign. For $50, friends and family of MSH patients or caring hospital supporters can buy a stuffed toy for a patient, and the funds are used to purchase life-saving equipment not covered by government funding. 

In its first year, the program raised $30,000. In 2017, 1,400 bears were purchased, generating a whopping $70,000 for equipment purchases. The campaign has evolved in 2018 to include additional “Bear Necessities” and now offers sleep sacks for newborns and cozy adult-sized blankets, along with the original teddy bears. The items can be purchased in the hospital’s gift shop or online at lifesavinggifts.ca. 

The Bear Necessities program caught the attention of local businesses like Ravenshoe Group, a Markham marketing company who committed to matching every bear hug purchased on Giving Tuesday — which falls the day after Cyber Monday encouraging giving back — to bring a little more holiday cheer to patients at MSH.  

Through the  generous support of the community and with the contribution of the matching gift from Ravenshoe Group a total of $100,000 was raised — enough to deliver 2,000 bear hugs to patients over the holiday season. Bear Necessities were purchased online, at the hospital, through company fundraisers and at Scotiabank locations across Markham and Stouffville.

“Thank you so much for the bear. It really helped take Andrew’s mind off some of the unpleasant things that he was going through,” said Dean, Andrew’s dad. “We both thought it was extra special that the teddy was given to him from a girl younger than him.” 

And these furry friends are making a real difference.

When eight-year-old Avani Janjua saw a billboard advertising MSH’s Bear Necessities program she asked her mom Sara to pull into the hospital immediately so that she could buy a teddy for a patient.

MSH Foundation office where she purchased a bear and left a personalized note for the patient that would be receiving her gift. 
“I hope this bear makes you feel better soon,” Avani wrote.

That teddy bear ended up in the arms of 12-year-old Andrew Whitney from Peterborough, who was in need of a bear hug after his surgery.
“Thank you so much for the bear. It really helped take Andrew’s mind off some of the unpleasant things that he was going through,” said Dean, Andrew’s dad. “We both thought it was extra special that the teddy was given to him from a girl younger than him.”

Sara said her family was ecstatic to find out that the bear was able to make someone feel better and to give back to their community hospital. “This is our home hospital—Avani and her brother were born here, and this is where all of our medical needs are taken care of,” said Sara.  

On the way home from MSH, Andrew told his dad that his teddy would be a perfect Christmas present for his little sister.  “Kind acts really do go a long way,” said Dean. 

Bear hugs are needed throughout the year, beyond the holiday season. To purchase a Bear Necessity visit lifesavinggifts.ca.