One Johnson Memorial Hospital program is brightening up hospital visits.
For the past 19 years, Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends Eeyore, Tigger and Piglet have been making their rounds at Johnson Memorial Hospital.
The stuffed friends are distributed to newborns and patients younger than 18 checked in at the hospital.
The Pooh Bears for Molly program was created by a friend of Molly Kathleen Gibson’s family. Gibson, who was a Franklin Community High School student, was killed in a car accident in 1998 when she was 17 years old.
“A friend of the family, of the Gibson family, said, ‘We need to do something to let Molly live on and remember her,’” said Jennifer Tennell, the executive director of Johnson Memorial Hospital Fund. “And she had a love for Pooh. So, they said, ‘We’ll have people donate Pooh Bears or money so Pooh Bears can be purchased’.”
Every single day, the stuffed yellow bears are distributed by one of the hospital volunteers called the Johnson Memorial Ambassadors. The volunteer receives a list from the foundation containing the adolescent, pediatric and newborn patients in need of a bear.
Each of the Pooh Bears come with a letter describing the program and why the family is receiving the stuffed animal.
Tennell said the reaction from receiving families depends on the situation — but is always positive.
“Those who had a child here before, then, they expect that because they already know that’s something we do,” Tennell said. “And if by chance someone is missed, we care about it, and we send a letter and send a Pooh Bear to that newborn. And some people who haven’t been here, they just think it’s a nice gesture.”
The hospital foundation calls February the Pooh Bears for Molly month because that was the month Gibson’s fatal car accident occurred.
During the month, students from Gibson’s high school hold an annual free breakfast where they encourage breakfast visitors to donate to the program.
Events to benefit the program are also held throughout the month of May because that was the month Gibson was born in.
The foundation also collects donations throughout the year.
Those interested in donating a Pooh Bear, Eeyore, Piglet or Tigger doll can bring a new and properly packaged stuffed animal to the hospital. The hospital also accepts check donations for the program through the mail.