The Philadelphia School Show Choir was rockin’ around the Christmas tree here Monday afternoon as Fort Loudoun Medical Center once again launched its annual Teddy Bear Drive with the official lighting of the hospital’s tree.
“There are too many bears!” exclaimed Chief Administrative Officer Jeffrey Feike, laughing as he climbed over a mountain of 100 stuffed animals to light the tree, an eight-year tradition that has become part of the city’s eagerly awaited holiday events.
The lighting took place after the 70-member choir — directed by John Dutton and composed of first through eighth-graders — performed a variety of Santa-themed rock songs, including “Blue Christmas.”
“It was a really wonderful event,” said Feike afterwards, noting that the donated bears and other stuffed animals distributed throughout the year help calm the fears of both children and elderly patients. “It touches lives because of what we do here. Sometimes they’re scared. But to have a cuddly animal to help you out a little … it makes such a difference in their lives. It’s those little things that typify the heart of Fort Loudoun Medical Center and who we are as a group of people who believe in quality because of the passions of the people. It’s about the culture of who Fort Loudoun is and it says an awful lot. The employees put this on, and I just happen to be a part of it.”
Volunteer Coordinator Dorothy Brozak, who counted 120 animals on hand Monday, said the stuffed animals are donated by individuals, various businesses and groups and churches like New Providence Baptist Church. “Every week I go over and check the bin to make sure there are enough, especially during the holidays when the ERs are busy but I’ve never run out of bears!” said Brozak, who says every child who comes into Fort Loudoun for imaging or lab work receives a stuffed animal of their choice. “All the siblings get them too – I don’t care if there are five or six of them because you can’t just give to one.”
Helping keeping Brozak’s volunteers supplied with bears is FLMC assistant nutritionist Kathleen Dieter who has made about 200 quilted and stuffed 30-inch teddy bears over the past four or five years. “My husband had been laid off for almost 18 months, and we’re still recovering,” said Dieter. “You live week to week and so you don’t always have money to donate, but this I can do. Besides, I like it.”
“It’s a great event and I enjoy doing it,” said Rev. Ron Jordan, executive minister at First Baptist Church of Lenoir City and long-time FLMC volunteer chaplain who read the Christmas story from the Bible as well as another from a children’s book. “The hospital has become a hub – this is really Downtown Central now. It’s a beehive of activity. We’re delighted with Mr. Feike and Fort Loudoun for being a part of our community.”