In 1985, enCourage Kids opened its doors and hearts to children facing serious health challenges and medical issues. Over thirty years later, our passion for encouraging all kids to be carefree kids continues to drive us, as we create safe and fun environments in the hospitals and provide exciting outings that the whole family can enjoy, free of charge. We strive to help all children feel comfortable being themselves throughout each step of their medical journey, whether they are being treated in the hospital or living with their struggles at home.
Our programs reach kids facing a variety of health issues – from those receiving chemo treatments in a clinic to those who live with a chronic illness that may not be visible. enCourage Kids Foundation currently serves over 250,000 infants, children, and teens in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The programs that have made us so successful over the past 30 years are the ones that were developed and grown locally in the tri-state area, including Escapes, Hospital Happenings, Tablets, Pediatric Hospital Support Program, Care Rooms, and Bear Program.
To us, a smile is everything. We believe there’s nothing more powerful than a smile, so we deliver them to the unlikeliest of places and to those who need them most. While all of our programs are responsible for spreading smiles, one of the most beloved ways is through our Bear Program. By giving hospitalized kids a warm, cuddly companion to help them through their stay, our Bears encourage comfort in an otherwise clinical setting.
For a hospitalized child, the enCourage Kids teddy bear stays by his side through lonely and scary times and gives the warmest of hugs. But did you know that the bear is also a teacher and a role model? Every day, child life specialists, nurses, and doctors are using enCourage Kids bears for ‘medical play’—to help young patients know what to expect during a hospital visit.
“A young patient was extremely anxious about getting an IV placed. We had given him an enCourage Kids Bear earlier in his stay and he had become quite attached to it. To prepare him for the IV, my team used the bear to explain all of the steps in what was to happen. We started ‘talking to Beary’ and through him, the patient was able to describe what really was making him nervous, which was the needle. We asked ‘Beary’ what may help to make him less afraid and the reply was to sit on mom’s lap and look the other way when the needle was placed. Through the play with this bear, our patient felt he had a voice which he could not vocalize on his own. It was truly amazing to see this unfold and to empower and provide a voice to this very scared little boy,” shared Nicole Almeida, Director of the Child Life Program at The Children’s Medical Center at Winthrop University Hospital.
enCourage Kids Bears truly have the power to comfort, empower, and inspire courage. Each Bear is individually wrapped, meeting hospital protocols for health standards. According to Kate Fenton, Director of the Child Life Program at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, “the enCourage Kids Bear becomes the patient, receives an exam by the child, wears a surgical hat and mask and accompanies the child into the operating room….The strength and comfort these bears provide is palpable. Children walking post operatively hugging the bear, walking so straight and tall and braving the pain inspires our staff.”
Through our Send a Smile, Send a Bear campaign, more than 27,000 cuddly teddy bears have made their way into the arms of hospitalized children since the program began in 2009. This year we have a goal to send 1,000 bears by the end of the year. We are more than halfway there, but we need your help! In honor of National Teddy Bear Day on September 9th, enCourage Kids will send one box of Bears to the pediatric hospital facility of your choice. To enter the contest, please like, comment, and share the enCourage Kids Bear video featured on our Facebook page with your Facebook friends, linked here! The winner will be randomly selected and contacted on September 23rd. You too can help bring comfort and encouragement to more children and join us in changing lives, one smile at a time.