Making a patient’s hospital stay a little more ‘bearable’ is just a bear hug away.

Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) Foundation will be relaunching the Bear Necessities program this fall after the COVID-19 pandemic sent the fundraising initiative into hibernation.

Created in 2016 to provide added comfort to patients of all ages at Oak Valley Health’s Markham Stouffville Hospital, the Bear Necessities program began by offering cuddly teddy bears to those who needed their spirits lifted.

In 2018, the program expanded to include soft sleep sacks for newborns and plush blankets to keep patients warm and comfortable.

When you give a ‘bear hug,’ you are supporting critical, life-saving equipment and bringing comfort to those who need it at MSH. Anyone who receives a ‘bear hug’ is reminded that they are not alone and that the talented hospital team has the tools they need to ensure excellent patient care, close to home.

“Participation in the Bear Necessities program showcases how generous our community is,” says Marina von Engelbrechten, MSHF Director of Community Giving. “By sending a teddy bear, sleep sack, or blanket, our community is caring for one another, no matter the age, while supporting a great cause. Whether you are a child in the paediatric clinic or an elderly patient in palliative care, knowing someone is thinking of you brings our community closer together.”

Former patient John Harrison has supported the Bear Necessities program every year since the beginning. “It was a win-win situation,” he says. “A patient gets something in their time of need and the funds support the hospital to improve patient care.” Harrison donates each year to purchase as many bears to be gifted to MSH patients knowing it provides comfort during their time at the hospital.

Bear Necessities are not only available for patients through a donation, they can also be purchased as gifts for loved ones for any special occasion. As the cold weather arrives and the holiday season is fast approaching, what better gift is there to give than the gift of warmth and support.  You can help make a patient’s stay a little more ‘bearable’ and show someone you care at


Photo: Bear hugs are putting smiles on patients’ faces at Markham Stouffville Hospital.

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