ANAVETS donate 120 bears to bring smiles to children

Kristen McEwen
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When paramedics are called onto a scene, the situation can be frightening – especially for any child that may be involved.

To comfort children during these upsetting times, Parkland Ambulance Care paramedics will give them a teddy bear.

“This is probably one of the easiest and simplest ways that we can use to calm a frightened child,” said Lyle Karasiuk, director of public affairs. “So we’ve got a child that’s maybe been involved in a motor vehicle collision, not feeling well because they’ve got fevers, (or) something else medically that’s wrong, we pull out one of these teddy bears and you can see, instantaneously, a happy smile.”

This way, children can have “a bit of creature comfort that they can hang onto” when they are away from their homes, Karasiuk added.

“We’ve seen kids hanging onto these things in the hospital -- and heading home with the bears. They’ve made a brand new little friend,” he said.

The Prince Albert Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans (ANAVETS) unit brought 120 bears to the Parkland Ambulance location on 13th Street East on Thursday.

“We’ve been actually out of bears for the last couple weeks in our ambulance,” Karasiuk said. “We’ve been stealing them from one vehicle to another so that our primary cars have them. But we’re so happy that these have arrived.”

For more than 15 years, the ANAVETS have donated the teddy bears. 

Giving the bears to local emergency responders is something that ANAVETS units throughout the country have done for years.

The program began in Prince Albert when one member got the idea after attending a meeting in another province, president Floyd Bartsch said.

Every year, Parkland Ambulance receives approximately 1,000 bears to give to kids.

“We’re proud to help out the community, especially the youth in our community,” Bartsch said. “The veterans are a big supporter of the youth. And if we can help a traumatized child with Parkland’s assistance … because they do such an excellent job and they’re such a vital source in our community, and we’re proud to help sponsor them as much as we can.”

Recently, the design of the stuffed animal changed from a light blue bear holding an even smaller version to a softer brown bear with a purple ribbon around it’s neck.

The change came as a result of switching from a local supplier to a supplier in the United States.

“These are a little bit more softer and cuddly,” Bartsch said. “And so we thought we’d try them out and see how it worked out. And hopefully our local supplier can maybe give us a better deal.”

Through the new supplier, the cost is approximately $250 for 120 bears.

Darlene Michel of the Prince Albert ANAVETS unit said the teddy bears stick with the children for years.

“Actually one of my grandchildren, years ago, got a bear and she’s now 17 and she carries it around with her still …,” Michel said. “When (the kids are) going through a bad time, the bear is close to them at that time, and for some kids it just remains there.”

Organizations: Prince Albert Army

Geographic location: 13th Street East, United States

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