Compassionate Care

The Buddy System

Sadie snuggles her Fezzy bear in the Buddy Room.

When a major medical treatment is scheduled at Shriners Children’s Greenville, there’s one preliminary procedure the kids look forward to: a visit to the Build-A-Bear Foundation Buddy Room.

Upon entering, children’s eyes widen in delight as they take in the shelves lining the walls, where a rainbow of colorful stuffed toys look down. Racks of hangers hold tiny clothes of every color and style.

And it’s all for them, courtesy of the Build-A-Bear Foundation, which has joined forces with Shriners Children’s to create an opportunity for patients to select a complimentary toy and customize it with just the right accessories. The program has been in place at the Greenville Shriners Children’s location for several years, and now the organizations are uniting to bring Buddy Rooms to Shriners Children’s locations throughout North America.

Prioritizing emotional well-being

“Build-A-Bear serves as an emotional anchor for our patients in a couple of important ways,” said Melissa Owen, child life specialist at Shriners Children’s Greenville. “Not only does it provide them with a way to creatively express themselves through the choice of a bear or outfit, but the bears are often a patient’s comfort item during surgery day. Comfort items are important for children of all ages to soothe and provide a sense of safety.”

Sadie, 13, has experienced this sense of comfort. She has been a patient at the Greenville hospital since she was a month old. Diagnosed prenatally with arthrogryposis, she has come to see the hospital as a friendly, welcoming place. And her mom, Jessie, appreciates the priority that Shriners Children’s places on caring for patients’ emotional well-being.

“For them to do that, it’s not trivial,” Jessie said. “It’s monumental.”

Sadie received her first complimentary toy from Shriners Children’s Greenville’s Build-A-Bear Foundation Buddy Room when she was about 6. Before a recent procedure, she got to choose a new one. “Shriners Children’s makes such an effort. For her to not fear going to the hospital, to not dread her treatment, is a really big deal,” Jessie said.

Jessie couldn’t be more pleased at the partnership’s expansion. “It will make getting care at Shriners Children’s just that much better,” she said.

Growing the partnership

The Foundation is giving a minimum of 5,000 stuffed toys to Shriners Children’s annually, along with an annual monetary donation to support the growth of the Buddy Rooms throughout the system.

The Build-A-Bear Foundation team is proud of its relationship with Shriners Children’s.

“We believe in the power of hugs and know a new furry friend can bring comfort and a smile during challenging times,” said Build-A-Bear Foundation President Voin Todorovic. “Our hope is that Build-A-Bear Foundation Buddy Rooms add a little more heart to the days of every patient by allowing them to get a special Build-A-Bear furry friend during their visit.”