Mark Twain Medical Center hosts annual Teddy Bear Clinic

Eager kindergarten boys Dalton O’Leary, left, and Isaiah Ramos climb into the front seat of the CHP cruiser. “I learned a lot of things. It was really fun!” said O’Leary of the day.

Close to 500 elementary swarmed Mark Twain Medical Center (MTMC) over the course of three days for the annual Teddy Bear Clinic.

Organized by Nicki Stevens, MTMC’s Marketing and Business Development manager, the event brought together a host of local agencies and MTMC medical staff all for the benefit of educating children.

“This event is held with the purpose and intention of reducing the children’s fears of coming to the hospital for care, or to visit a loved one in a setting that is not familiar to them … in the event they may need to be a patient in an ambulance, or air ambulance, or that they may need services from one of our other public partners, we want them to feel assured that in the event of an emergency, very kind and dedicated people will take very good care of them,” Stevens said of the mission of the Teddy Bear Clinic. “We also believe that together, during this three-day event, we are all collectively planting the seeds for our future generations to become interested in a future career in the health care field, or public service.”

Upon arrival at the hospital, students were greeted by tour guides bestowing goodie bags containing a teddy bear and a working toy stethoscope. As the day progressed, the bags were filled with small mementos from visits with the various agencies and hospital departments.

The first tour stops included an ambulance; a gleaming engine from Cal Fire and the opportunity to try out a portable water pack; a visit with Sparky the Fire Dog and firefighters from the San Andreas Fire Department, and an up-close look at the bright yellow and black air ambulance. Smokey the Bear was also on hand for high-fives and photos.

“It’s an important day because it helps to take away fears,” said Support Captain Dana Nichols of the San Andreas Fire Protection District, who participated in the event. “Seeing fire fighters in masks and the sounds they make while wearing one can be frightening for young children.”

During the three-hour clinic, groups also listened to brief presentations given by personnel from the Emergency, Radiology and Physical Therapy departments, among others.

The 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds tentatively explored the inside of the ambulance and fire truck, eagerly got behind the wheel of a California Highway Patrol cruiser and had the opportunity to pet Oliver and PJ, two 1,700-pound draft horses that are members of the CHP mounted patrol.

“All of the agencies in attendance do a phenomenal job of interacting with the kids in an environment that is both fun and structured for the appropriate age group. These dedicated professionals provide an insight and education that is very important for these kids to understand and recognize safety and other potential preventable situations,” Stevens said. “I believe this to be a true philosophy of our community partners. That we all share in this commitment of providing exceptional service to the children and all that we serve.”

True to its mission, the Teddy Bear Clinic was embraced by the kids.

“I liked that we got to see an X-ray and see a broken bone on it,” said 6-year-old Rio Bridges, a kindergarten student at Hazel Fischer Elementary. “And I liked the lollipop, it was delicious!”

Copperopolis kindergartener Ally Paul added, “The bus ride to the hospital was like being on a roller coaster, but I still liked seeing the horses the best. I think all of the kids liked the Teddy Bear Clinic.”

Clearly the day was a success for those involved – a win for those who work to make it happen, and those the event is intended to serve.

“Nicki and the staff at Mark Twain always plan a perfect day for the students. The guides have an obvious passion for what they do and are so accommodating to the many needs of our young visitors. It is a wonderful field trip that we always look forward to,” said Copperopolis kindergarten teacher Anna Davenport. “I think the students walk away with a better sense of how important it is to help people. We talk about that every day in our classroom, and practice it with peers, but seeing it on a larger scale with adults they look up to is powerful.”

Such impact is part of what makes the almost four months of planning that goes into the Teddy Bear Clinic so worthwhile.

“Personally, and I believe it of others, I find this work to be both meaningful and refreshing. Watching these dedicated teams each year speak to this vast audience of kids, teachers and parents about why they serve in the professions that they do, makes my heart feel good. These are all very dedicated and great people who care deeply about this world and the work that we all do,” Stevens said. “We are extremely grateful to the schools and all of our public partners for allowing us to continually serve the youth during our three-day Teddy Bear Clinic each year.”

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