Santa Claus (Steve Wray) works with volunteers Sharon Hull and Hayden Wray to deliver 39 stuffed animals at MCMC on Christmas Eve.
Mid-Columbia Medical Center has run out of stuffed animals to provide to children undergoing treatment or visiting family members who are hospitalized.
“These animals are something we can also give to lonely people who sometimes need a boost,” said Joyce Powell-Morin, director of volunteer services.
She led the effort back in the 1980s to give out little gifts to patients for Christmas. Employees supplied toys for the program, which gradually grew into distribution of hundreds of stuffed animals a year.
MCMC began getting help from the Teddy Bear Run at the Northwest Cherry Festival in The Dalles that brings in 500-700 critters each year. Civic organizations and 4-H clubs also stepped up to help. However, this year MCMC has run short and Powell-Morin and others are trying to round up donations.
“The community has been wonderful to provide them and we want to say ‘Thank you’ and let people know that we need some more,” she said.
People wanting to contribute can drop small to medium-sized animals (there is not enough storage for large ones) off at front desk of the hospital, 1700 E. 19th St.
“We want new or like-new animals — something that with soothe a child or someone who doesn’t have visitors,” said Powell-Morin.
She said volunteers sort through animals that come in to ensure they are clean and in good shape.
Santa, with helper Steve Wray, and some volunteer elves, passes out some and the others are given out by medical staffers who see the need to put a smile on someone’s face.
“We give them out in all departments – it’s part of our comfort care,” said Celeste Minnis, volunteer coordinator. “They don’t have to be bears — they can be anything.”