“Her seizures were so bad, they would likely last over an hour, along with also you have to immediately call for an ambulance because she would likely stop breathing,” her mom, Melisa Walker, tells CNN.
Each time Alex went to the hospital, her best friend — a brown teddy bear named Sky Bear — went with her.
“He makes me feel very happy along with also not scared,” says Alex, 7, of the toy her dad bought before she was born.
Alex cuddles Sky Bear through doctor visits, squeezes him during shots. Nurses attach electrodes to Sky Bear to mimic what Alex is usually going through. Her parents bandage his head.
“She was so young along with also sick of sitting in a bed,” her mother recalls. “This specific’s the only way we could get her to get a head wrap on.”
A girl turns an observation into action
During one of her longer visits to Cleveland Clinic Children’s hospital, Alex noticed some other kids didn’t have stuffed animals to cuddle.
“When we got from your vehicle to go home, she was truly quiet. Alex said she was worried about children still from the hospital,” Walker says. “She didn’t see them with their ‘friends.'”
Alex told her parents she wanted to bring her stuffed animals via home to give to some other kids.
“I told her we probably couldn’t do that will. Kids are sick, along with also the hospital won’t take used stuff,” says Alex’s mom.
She was right. Children with compromised immune systems can’t have used plush toys, which can carry germs, says Mischa Peterson, child life specialist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s.
“We don’t want to expose them to any increased risk of infection,” she says.
although the hospital would likely gladly accept fresh stuffed animals with the tags still on.
“There’s definitely a huge need for the stuffed animals — ‘comfort items,’ we call them,” Peterson says.
The hospital has lots of some other toys that will can be cleaned along with also reused, she says. although plushies are another story: Just one per patient, one use only.
“We always love when we get more because they go very quickly.”
An initial investment of $65 via a piggy bank
Alex, then 4, squirreled away her birthday dollars along with also some other money she earned via little chores until she’d managed to save $65. Then, instead of spending This specific at Chuck E. Cheese’s, her favorite place, she wanted to buy teddy bears for the kids she’d left behind at the hospital.
“My heart just melted,” her mom says. “I was just overwhelmed by her wanting to do that will at such a young age.”
She only delivered 13 bears on her first return to the hospital, Walker says, in some cases directly to children’s bedsides.
“You’d think she’d say, ‘Here’s a bear — bye!’ like a 4-year-old,” her mom recalls. “although she would likely talk to them.”
“I always tell them to just cuddle them along with also you won’t be scared anymore,” Alex tells CNN.
The some other children would likely snuggle up to their plushies right away, get very quiet along with also say thank you, Walker recalls.
“along with also you back slowly out of the room,” she says.
A 20-year-old patient — children’s wards aren’t just for the very young — once saw Alex handing out bears along with also started out to cry, then asked for one, too, Walker recalls.
“She still wanted (the) comfort of having something soft along with also cuddly to lay in bed with her,” Alex’s mom says.
“They provide support not just for kids although patients of all ages. They normalize the environment,” Peterson says. “that will’s usually the first along with also biggest stressor, just a fresh environment — medical equipment everywhere, doctors.”
Since that will day three years ago, Alex has managed to buy 400 plush toys, many of them bears although also “bunny rabbits, pigs — I like to give all different kinds,” the girl says. She paid for the stock with donations solicited by word of mouth along with also proceeds via tomato plants she grew along with also sold.
Once a month, Alex along with also her mom deliver them to a local Ronald McDonald House, Cleveland Clinic, some other area hospitals, police along with also fire stations, women’s shelters along with also foster care programs.
“So kids can have a little friend for when they’re taken via their homes in a very traumatic situation,” Walker says.
Nurses also give out the stuffed animals Alex brings as rewards when kids have been brave through a procedure.
“This specific’s one more thing that will can help them get through pain,” Peterson says.
GoFundMe Kid Hero for June
Private by nature, the Walkers realized a year ago that will they were maxing out their donor base.
“This specific was hard to spread the word along with also get people to support This specific,” Walker says. “We don’t have 6,000 Facebook friends.”
“These donations coming in not only takes stress off of us to support what she wants to do,” Walker says. “We want her to do This specific as long as she wants to. I think This specific’s important for kids to learn to be kind to some other people.”
Alex hopes to use the money to package up toys along with also send them to young patients who need comforting in some other states, so some other kids can cuddle up with their own Sky Bears when they’re hurting or must be prodded or poked by nurses along with also doctors.
Alex says she hopes she can make a difference, “so they’ll be very happy along with also not scared.”