by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — As the lore goes, it was 1902 when the Teddy bear was created. Named for President Theodore Roosevelt, a bear hunter, the president was on expedition when he came across an injured bear. He ordered a mercy killing of the injured animal and later an editorial cartoon retold the scene. Merchants reacted quickly by making stuffed bears and calling them “Teddy.” Overtime, Teddy bears became a symbol of comfort.
Peterson Air Force Base has its own Teddy bear tradition. In 2003, a small group of Airmen wondered how they could improve the holidays for children who were in the hospital. They would give children a new Teddy bear, they decided. They called their project Teddy Bears for Kids.
“We have kids who are sitting in the hospital on Christmas Day who just need a little reach-out to them,” said Tech. Sgt. Thom Moore, 21st Space Wing ground safety technician. “Being a kid in the hospital during the holidays has got to be a drag.”
The first year, the group collected 100 new Teddy bears. Kids love Teddy bears and people love giving them, Sergeant Moore said. Last year, with the help of children from the U.S. Air Force Academy Youth Center, Sergeant Moore delivered more than 420 Teddy bears to the Penrose St. Francis hospital pediatric ward in Colorado Springs.
“We started in 2003 — I was surprised we collected so many bears so quickly,” Sergeant Moore said. “Seven years later, I’m thinking big — I want 1,000.”
Children from Peterson, Schriever and the Air Force Academy are the biggest givers, he said. Last year, children gave 55 percent of all the bears donated.
“It’s really amazing,” said Kathleen Woodard, pediatric and neonatal intensive care unit clinical manager at the hospital. “Every time a child is admitted, we find out their age, and we can pull out the perfect Teddy bear and have it waiting for them on their bed. It de-escalates the scariness — it gives them a sense of comfort when they have anxiety.”
There can be up to 14 children in the pediatric ward at one time, she said. Currently eight children are spending the holidays in the ward. Last year’s Teddy bears allowed the staff to give out bears through the summer.
“We can’t tell you how much we appreciate the whole group,” Ms. Woodard said.
Over time, the original Airmen who came up with the idea for Teddy Bears for Kids moved on to other bases. Next year, Sergeant Moore will also move on. He doesn’t want the project to end. Last year, he teamed up with Child Care Connections, Inc., a non-profit agency that assists families with comprehensive resources and referral, to help with the bear drive.
“I’m looking for someone from Peterson to pick up the project — to keep the up the tradition,” he said. “This could be a project to be remembered.”
· New Teddy bears can be dropped off in the safety office, Building 845, room 107, or at Child Care Connections, Inc., 125 N. Parkside, Suite 202. Sergeant Moore plans to deliver the bears Dec. 22.
· Anyone interested in participating in the next Teddy Bears of Kids project can contact Sergeant Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.