When he was in fourth grade, Noel Schoessow spent an entire year in the hospital recovering from a major eye surgery after an accident. He’s all grown up now, but he still remembers his inpatient stay, particularly how lonely he felt during those months.
While it’s a sad memory for him, his time in the hospital inspired him to launch The Bear Hug Project, a nonprofit that is working to give a teddy bear to every hospitalized child in southeastern Wisconsin during the holiday season. It just goes to show that our hardest moments can transform into something beautiful!
When Noel looks back on his time in the hospital, he vividly remembers one thing that helped him get through the hard days — a puppet his parents gave him, which he named Fido. The toy quickly turned into a wonderful companion for him.
“Fido became my best friend. Fido went everywhere with me in the hospital and was a predominant source of comfort while I was there,” Noel said. “I made a promise to myself that when I grew up, I would find a way to bring that same comfort I felt from Fido to other sick children who were stuck in the hospital during the holidays.”
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He kept that promise by founding The Bear Hug Project! For every $10 that are donated, one Build-A-Bear is given to a pediatric patient in the hospital. The organization aims to give teddy bears to all little ones, including tiny babies in the NICU. Even though the babies can’t actually sleep with their special bear, the dolls can be propped up to watch over them when their parents can’t be there.
The bears also offer comfort to their grieving parents. Owen McCormick, the son of a Bear Hug Project volunteer, passed away shortly after his premature birth. His parents were able to take the toy home with them as “a positive memory.”
Throughout the year, The Bear Hug Project collects donations, which are then put to use during the holiday season.
While getting a teddy bear to every hospitalized child in the area by Christmas is a “lofty goal,” it’s one that’s incredibly important to Noel and all his volunteers. After all, “It is important to see kids in the hospital smile.”
What a heartwarming way to support children in need! Our thoughts are with each and every one of these kids as they fight for their health.
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