Bear hugs make a patient’s stay ‘bearable’

Community support enabled Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) Foundation delivers 2,300 bear hugs over the holiday season and raises $115,000.

MSH Foundation created the Bear Necessities program in 2016 as a way to provide added comfort to hospital patients.

In 2018, the program expanded from a cuddly teddy bear to include soft sleep sacks for newborns born at the hospital and plush blankets.

Bear Necessity gifts show a patient that someone is thinking about them in their time of need.

“Our program speaks to the generosity and kind spirit of our community,” says Tracy Clegg, Vice President, Donor Engagement & Operations. “Giving a bear hug allows our community to change lives in a way that nothing else we have done before has. Our community has touched the lives of some of our most vulnerable patients. Our tiniest patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, to women fighting cancer in our chemotherapy clinic, to our elderly patients – one, in particular, that was suffering from dementia.”

MSH’s Markham site sees over 360,000 patients a year, and the need is ongoing to provide comfort to these patients all year long, not just over the holiday season.

MSH Foundation’s goal is to deliver 3,000 bear hugs by March 5, 2020 — its 30th anniversary. To do this, they will need support from everyone in the community.

One family who is helping deliver comfort to the patients is the Tzogas siblings. Jacob first got involved in the program when he wanted to buy a bear for his grandmother who was undergoing chemotherapy. She is no longer with the family; however, this personal connection to the Bear Necessities program inspired him to raise money to help others in the hospital.

Then this past December, his sister Samantha and her dance troop at AB Dance started fundraising for the program and inspired families in the community to make a difference.

“We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to touch lives and see the huge impact such a little bear can make on a life,” Clegg says. “With support from community members like the Tzogas and our local businesses, I truly believe we will one day be able to deliver bear hugs to all our patients.”

Not only is a Bear Necessity a gift from a community member to give comfort when someone needs it most – the money raised from the program goes towards the purchase of life-saving equipment that government funding doesn’t cover.

Purchase a Bear Necessity and show someone you care at

Photo: Peggy and her son receive a bear hug. 

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