At Inova Children's Hospital, Bill Rice presented his hand-crafted teddy bears Tuesday morning, June 29. Rice gave the hospital his 1,000th teddy bear, after six years of meticulous sewing and stitching. Through local Quilter's Unlimited of Northern Virginia, a nonprofit organization of quilters, Rice was able to stitch expertly anything from baby quilts, baby clothes and eventually teddy bears.
"The first needlework I ever did was in grade school, and I have continued throughout the years," Rice said.
The bears that were donated are colored in an array of plaid patterns and designs. Rice's teddy bears, with matching colored hearts on their bellies, go to ailing children with life-threatening diseases or chronic illness. Using donated fabrics and his two hands, Rice cuts the pattern, clips and stuffs the bears and decorates them with care.
Before Rice got involved in this type of community service activity, he was a member of the U.S. Army. As a retired Army official, Rice now works for American Systems, a networking company in Chantilly.
Next to the bag of bears and Rice are Dr. Robert Cates, chairman of Inova for Children, and Karen Peck, patient care director of Inova Children's Hospital.
"Doctors give bears to children they believe need their day brightened, and I think that this donation is very important," said Kathleen Thomas, media director of Inova Children's Hospital.
"WE APPRECIATE items given to the children that can serve as an outlet for creativity and amusement. Anything that can be cuddled is a nice way for kids to be comforted," said Peck.
Rice plans to continue this project along with the baby clothes he makes. "I do not get to meet the children I make the teddy bears for, but I know that they bring smiles to the hospital regardless," Rice said. The majority of the children are 5 and younger.
Some of the bears also go to other emergency-type organizations. "Some bears go to the police department and fire department for the same reason; they also make emergency-type calls to children of different situations," said Rice.
The patients of the children's ward receive their teddy bears almost immediately.
"It is heart warming to see kids who walk up and down the halls with IVs, holding teddy bears in their arms," said Peck.