Five-year-old Wesley Larsen of Layton, Utah, lies in a hospital bed surrounded by balloons, posters, get well cards, and large stuffed animals. But the thing he keeps closest to him is a small, homemade, brown double knit teddy bear. The bear is a gift from the paramedics, but Wesley does not know the bear is also a gift from the West Point Utah Stake Young Women.
Wesley tosses his red hair as he tells about the day three weeks earlier when a little girl chased him and tackled him during recess. He becomes sad when he talks about how bad his leg hurt. His freckled face shows surprise as he exclaims, “I didn’t know a girl could be that strong.”
Wesley tells about the paramedics who came to school to take him to the hospital and gave him the small bear because he was “brave.” The humble bear gave the little boy something else to think about instead of his fractured left femur. During the weeks he spent in traction, the bear was never far from his side.
Micki Adams, West Point Stake Young Women president, and Annice Nixon, her second counselor, spearheaded the bear project. They approached Captain K. D. Simpson of the Davis County Sheriff’s Department with the idea of placing teddy bears with the sheriff’s paramedic and patrol units.
Captain Simpson told them that children are involved in approximately 45 percent of all the calls for services by the Davis County Paramedics.
Sister Adams read a newspaper article about a Montana group who donated teddy bears to a paramedic organization. She brought up the idea at a Young Women presidency meeting, and the theme “Teddy Bear Picnic” was selected for the Young Women birthday party.
Knowing how anxious children are when confronting a policeman or a paramedic, the Young Women decided that they would create teddy bears to help. “We wanted to give the child something to focus on beside his pain,” Sister Adams said. “We wanted to give him something to hold on to and to love.”
When the young women gathered for a stake Young Women birthday party, they met to begin clipping, turning, stuffing and hand finishing 285 bears.
Lori Ellsworth, a Beehive in the West Point Third Ward, said, “The first bear was hard to make until I got the hang of it. But it was worth it because it would help someone in pain.”
Ninety bears were completed that evening. The girls took the rest of the bears home to finish on their own.
The bears are eight inches tall and made from scraps donated by the stake Young Women presidency. The West Point Stake Relief Society donated most of the stuffing.
The Davis County Sheriff’s Department received 100 teddy bears. Captain Simpson said it is policy now for a paramedic or a sheriff on a call to give any child involved under the age of ten a bear. However, young children have not been the only recipients. The paramedics gave a bear to an 80-year-old woman who suffered a stroke. “It was the only thing that calmed her down,” said Captain Simpson. “She wouldn’t let go of the bear.”
The local hospital received another 100 teddy bears that were hung on a Christmas tree. Children admitted to the hospital were able to choose which one they wanted.
Captain Simpson said, “At first the paramedics weren’t too sure about using the bears. It wasn’t macho. It took two or three times using the bears before they realized how well they worked. Now if they don’t have enough, they get more. They count on them when working with children.”
Captain Simpson, who is also a flight paramedic, saw firsthand how effective the bears can be. Twelve-year-old Nicole Wallace had to be flown by helicopter from one hospital to another. She was bleeding internally from a lacerated kidney and liver suffered in an automobile accident. She refused to give up her bear even when the paramedics needed to transfer her from one gurney to another. She finally gave it up just before undergoing surgery.
Nicole lives in the West Point Sixth Ward but had not yet turned 12 when her friends had made the green spotted bear the paramedics gave her after the accident.
“The paramedics had to take the seat out. Then they took me out of the back window. When they put me in the ambulance, they gave me this cute little bear,” Nicole said. “It kept me from getting scared. I would hold on to it, so I wouldn’t hurt so bad. In the hospital it stayed right by me in my bed.”
Jennifer Techmeyer, a Beehive in the West Point Seventh Ward, said, “I thought it was really great to make something to put in the ambulance for the kids. I thought it was special to donate our love to them.”