The stuffed animals represented the fruits of this year’s Teddy Bear Toss, an annual promotion in which fans bring their bears to a Raiders game and throw them onto the ice when the Raiders score their first goal. The bears are later distributed throughout the community based on need.
The Victoria Hospital is one of the biggest recipients of teddy bears each year, distributing the animals to improve the quality of life for its youngest patients.
“Over the year they’re given to children and we actually ran out (this year), so we’re very appreciative of them, because it’s for the kids,” nursing unit manager of pediatrics Jane Antoine said.
“They’re sick, they’re in hospital. It’s a scary place. It just makes it a little more friendly that there’s someone there to offer them a warm cuddly bear -- that it’s not all about having tests done and procedures and medicine. It can be about cuddling a bear and feeling better.”
Raiders centre Mike Winther scored the goal in question this year with an assist from defenceman Sawyer Lange. Both were present at the hospital on Tuesday along with goalie Andy Desautels.
“It’s great, great for us to come along and support the kids,” Winther said. “We don’t get to do this so often, so it’s nice to come here and boost their spirits.”
“It’s just a good way to give back to the community for all the support that they’ve given us,” Lange said. “We’re happy to help out in the community whenever we can, kind of show people that we’re not just here to play hockey and stuff. We’re happy to help out whenever we have the time.”
While the Raiders are the main spur to amassing the teddy bears, the volunteer group SaskTel Pioneers also played a valuable role in collecting the bears and bringing them to the hospital.
Following the delivery, the bears are put away. As children come in, hospital staff will select a bear appropriate for the age of each child and bring them to individual rooms -- since some children cannot enter the playroom due to the risk of infection.
It’s just a good way to give back to the community for all the support that they’ve given us. - Sawyer Lange
“We have 14 children on the unit today,” Antoine said. “Most of our children are in isolation because of infectious colds or diseases or respiratory, so they can’t come and play. So we will select a bear and bring it to that child. Maybe it’s when the mum or dad have to run home and look after the other kids or do something, and they start to cry and they’re feeling a little lonely. We’ll go select a bear and give them this bear.”
As happy as the bears make children at the hospital, making those kids happy has its own effect on the players.
“It definitely feels good to see the kids with the teddy bears,” Winther said. “They look up to us and it’s good for us to give them something back.”