SILVERDALE — Bears are normally solitary animals, but on Dec. 7, about 150 teddy bears and their friends gathered at the emergency room entrance of Harrison Medical Center in Silverdale, ready and waiting to be given to children who pass through the ER.
The Olympic Vintage Auto Club completed its annual drive, donating numerous stuffed animals to the hospital. This tradition was started years ago by auto club members John Gilmore and Bruce Harlow. Harlow, a retired Navy rear admiral, also owns the building the ER uses for imaging.
Harlow said the drive was actually inspired by a group of nurses.
“We’re one family here,” Harlow said, “and many years ago, I saw some nurses trying to find transportation to go to Walmart to buy some stuffed animals, because children in the emergency room … It’s comforting to them to be able to have an animal and keep the animal.”
Harlow said they went to Walmart, spoke to the manager, got a discount, and brought back stuffed animals for the children.
“That started it,” he said. “I said, ‘You nurses shouldn’t have to buy them yourself. Come on, we can find people to help with that.’ So then the club took that up, and the old car club has been sort of a sponsor of this for a long time.”
Club member Ann Sears said members start collecting usually in the springtime, and save up the stuffed animals until early December to bring to the hospital.
“We come up here every year around this time, on a nice day,” she said. “We come up here, park the cars and put out the teddy bears, and then the staff will come out and collect them for the kids that come through the emergency room.”
Gilmore added, “The whole idea is to give. When a young kid comes into the emergency room, young kids tend to be panicked. You give them a teddy bear, and it gives them something else to think about.”
Club member Santa Claus (otherwise known as Ted Austin) said that one year he happened to be in the hospital around Christmas time.
“A nurse walking by said, ‘Santa, while you’re here, would you mind giving one of the kids a teddy bear?’ ” Austin said. “I said I would love it. This little girl was just crying her eyes out, couldn’t even talk, just sobbing and crying. I walked over and said, ‘Ho ho ho, little girl. Would you like a teddy bear for a friend?’
“Boy, her face turned into a smile. She calmed down, wouldn’t cry anymore. It was a beautiful thing to see.”
— Michelle Beahm is online editor for Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at email@example.com.