Wednesday, December 02, 2009 - Made with Love, Hand-Knit Bears Warm the Hearts of Young Patients at the CECH

Ft. Lauderdale, FL - When you walk into the Chris Evert Children’s Hospital, you may notice that patients are occupied with the usual assortment of games, electronics and dolls. But many are also accompanied by soft, knitted teddy bears – not exactly what you’d find at the local toy store.

Is this the newest “it” toy? For these children, the answer is yes.

Six years ago, Shirley Swartz noticed a handmade teddy bear who her neighbor, Harriette Lonsway, had made to give to a child in a local hospital. Swartz, an avid knitter, liked the idea so much that she and Lonsway joined forces to knit and crochet teddy bears to give to sick children.

Today, the “Bear Ladies” have grown to a group of more than ten women, and have delivered more than 4,500 hand-knit teddy bears and other toys to children at Chris Evert Children’s Hospital and other facilities in the South Florida area.

Each knitted or crocheted bear is made entirely by hand, and may be customized for a girl or a boy. “Children love the bears,” Swartz remarked. “A hand-knit blanket will warm the body, but these bears warm their hearts. We’re glad that we can make a difference.”

The teddy bear donations are coordinated through the Child Life Program at Chris Evert Children’s Hospital. This special department is dedicated to reducing the stress of hospitalization by promoting the normal social, emotional and educational development of the hospitalized children. In addition to the bears, the hospital also accepts donations of toys for playroom use, craft supplies, books, dvd’s, video games and the like.

"The childrens’ faces light up when they see Shirley and her team walk in,” said Trish Lira, coordinator of the Child Life Program. “They’re bringing something truly special to these kids, who have been through so much.”

Broward Health, providing service for more than 50 years, is a nationally recognized system offering world class health care services to our neighbors in South Florida. One of the 10 largest public health systems in the nation, Broward Health includes Broward General Medical Center, North Broward Medical Center, Imperial Point Medical Center, Coral Springs Medical Center, Chris Evert Children’s Hospital, Broward Health Weston and more than 30 facilities of the Community Health Services and Broward Health Physician Group. For more information, visit

The Teddy Bear Ladies.