A man in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, is on a mission to provide comforting teddy bears for children staying in local hospitals.
When 51-year-old Noel Schoessow was in fourth grade, he suffered an eye injury then underwent surgery and was in the hospital for a year recovering, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“I remember those days, and I remember the loneliness,” he said, adding that his family gave him a puppet named Fido that became a source of comfort.
Now, Schoessow is doing the same for hospitalized children.
In 2011, he started the nonprofit Bear Hug Project whose goal is to “provide an anonymous gift of a stuffed animal to each and every child at Christmas,” its website read.
Since its founding, the group has donated more than 3,000 teddy bears to children.
The bears are purchased at the Build-a-Bear Workshop inside Mayfair mall, and this year, the group sent over 500 of the stuffed toys to kids in five local hospitals.
“Knowing that there are many who will benefit from receiving a bear will put a smile on my face that lasts for months,” Schoessow explained.
On December 6, the nonprofit shared photos of volunteers at the workshop getting the toys ready for delivery:
Schoessow is also very passionate about caring for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the Sentinel article continued.
Volunteer Michael McCormick’s son, Owen, was born at 26 weeks at Waukesha Memorial Hospital and transferred to the NICU following his birth.
“He died after 10 days,” Schoessow recalled. “I feel like I need to do this not only for the kids but for the parents (who have children in the NICU) as well.”
If a baby does not survive, he said the bear serves as a positive memory for the little one’s family.
“I cannot picture what these parents are going through,” Schoessow noted, adding that even if an infant cannot touch the bear, it sits in the background and later goes home with them.
“It is important for kids in the hospital to get a bear for Christmas,” said Schoessow’s daughter, Laken. “It is important to see kids in the hospital smile.”