Monday, April 25, 2011

No Hibernation for New Teddy Bears Thanks to Teen Hospital Volunteers

MELROSE PARK, Ill. – While many of their friends were dying brightly colored eggs or enjoying the start of a special holiday vacation, three Chicago-area teenagers visited a local hospital to lift the spirits of the youngest patients. The trio gave more than 500 new teddy bears to the hospital as part of a volunteer program they created. When Michelle Fritz, 13, would visit her grandfather in the hospital, she noticed a young patient who never seemed to have visitors. "I felt really sorry for her because she didn't have any family or friends who brought her presents or came to see her and she looked so sad and lonely," said the 7th grader at St. Maria Goretti Catholic School in the Chicago suburb of Schiller Park. Now thanks to the kindness of Michelle and five of her schoolmates, young patients at Loyola University Health System's Gottlieb Memorial Hospital will always have a warm, fuzzy friend for company. Michelle and her friends collected more than 500 new teddy bears from community members as part of their "Hospital Hearts Teddy Bears" program. On Good Friday, Michelle and her friends Carli Deegan and Bri Swanson visited Gottlieb's Pediatrics Department and family-centered care unit to give new teddy bears to young hospital patients. "I'd like the orange one," said 10-year-old José Iniquez, when the teenagers offered him a selection of big, small, furry or smooth bears. Marilou Rodriguez, supervising nurse of Pediatrics, and her fellow staff members accepted the many bags of bears gratefully. "A hospital stay can be stressful for young people; for many it is their first time away from home. Having a colorful, cuddly bear for company helps calm fears and promotes healing. And knowing they are a loving gift from a fellow young person makes it all the more special," Rodriguez said. Rodriguez praised the teenagers’ initiative. "To come up with this volunteer idea and then spend time and energy gathering these bears to help others is really wonderful and the young girls are so kind to put the feelings of others first," she said. New mother Maria Romero accepted a traditional brown teddy bear for her son, Isaac, who was born less than 24 hours before at Gottlieb. "It's his first teddy bear and it means so much to us that it was a gift from these sweet girls. We will treasure it always," she said. Wearing shirts they had created themselves to promote their program, the three girls told Gottlieb Memorial Hospital nurses that they would be back. "We started the program in December, but we want to continue to encourage teddy bear donations," said Carli, who has been a regular at the hospital but as a patient rather than a visitor. "I play school team sports and have broken six bones in the past three months. I know how scary coming to the hospital can be," she said.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.