Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s Volunteer Services Department hosted its annual Donate-a-Bear Drive on Saturday.
“We collect the bears year round, however we do one big teddy bear collection once a year,” said April Garcia, manager of volunteer services. “It’s a great community event for all ages — that’s what’s wonderful.”
Santa Clarita residents were invited to donate teddy bears or other stuffed animals, which will be given to children who visits the Henry Mayo Emergency Department throughout the year.
“Every pediatric patient that comes through receives a teddy bear to offer them an item of comfort,” Garcia added.
Every month, the emergency department administers to about 1,000 kids, according to director Dustin Ashenfelter.
“It impacts them tremendously,” Ashenfelter said. “Nobody wants to be in the emergency department. We’ve heard stories like, ‘My son got a bear when he was in the ER, it made him feel so special and he still has it to this day.’”
“Then they come as a family and want to donate bears and give back, so it comes full circle,” Garcia added.
The hospital partnered with Camelot Moving and Storage, who store the stuffed animals for them free of charge, for the third year in a row, Garcia said.
Those who came to donate also had the opportunity to spend some time with Henry Mayo’s Pet Therapy dogs and were given free ice cream by Tracy Grant from ReMax Gateway and the Augusta Financial Treat Suite ice cream truck.
“I think that it’s really important that things like this are done,” said local mother Tracy Datt. “I want my kids to learn at an early age that it’s about giving back.”
Datt looked on as her 2- and 8-year-olds ate their ice cream after donating their giraffe stuffed animals.
“Those are actually the stuffed animals they just got in their Easter baskets and we’re already donating them back,” Datt said. “To think that the stuffed animals will comfort children while they’re in the hospital — I just wanted to be apart of that and I wanted my kids to be a part of it to learn to give and be grateful for what they have.”