Stories - Community Champions
The Secret To The Dr. Goodbear Clinic’s Success
31 years ago, a group of volunteers got together to design an extraordinary day of fun and learning for Manitoba families. Still going strong in 2017, the Teddy Bears’ Picnic, presented by the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, has grown from seven tents to over 50!
Although this annual outing has become a grand tradition, it had humble beginnings.
“The Board determined that we needed a large kick-off event to lead us into the Telethon planned for the following weekend,” remembers Chris Anderson, one of the founders of Teddy Bears’ Picnic. “It was decided that Picnic would be a free event with a variety of activities. We felt it needed a major attraction and the idea to set-up a Teddy Hospital was born. I came up with the idea to call it the BASH (Bear Ambulatory Surgical Hospital), simply based on TV’s MASH.”
The BASH tent started out small, but quickly grew. By year three BASH was housed in one massive tent measuring 120’ x 40’.
“Many thanks to Dave Nelson of Nelson Tents who had a large crew to erect this major structure for many years until wear and tear meant we had to find a replacement,” says Chris. “As there were no other tents of this size available in the Prairies we had to go with several smaller tents.”
Teddy Bears’ Picnic requires tireless efforts from an army of volunteers and a committee dedicated to delivering an incredible day.
“I volunteered for the first time at Teddy Bear Picnic #2,” says Doris Sawatzky-Dickson, Picnic Committee Member, NICU Clinical Nurse Specialist. “It was exciting to be involved in something that linked my work in the hospital with the community. There are so many reasons to keep coming back; tired volunteers who stay for an extra shift because they love interacting with the kids; tired parents who are grateful because you fit their child in for one last Teddy surgery; kids who had been patients at the hospital coming to show off how well they are doing. Every year I wonder if I can do it again, and every year as it gets closer, I can’t imagine not being there.”
A deep love and appreciation for Picnic seems to energize committee members and staff alike. From ‘good teachable moments and learning opportunities’, to “a fun and interactive way to give back”, the reasons for their continued support are heartfelt and plentiful.
So too are the memories of the man who was there from the beginning.
“My greatest memory of Picnic would have to be the magic of the kids entering the original massive hospital tent,” says Chris. “Couple that with the number of Children’s Hospital staff, who turn out to volunteer at BASH. It’s amazing to see.”
As always, the Teddy Bears’ Picnic goes rain or shine.
“There were numerous challenges over the years,” recalls Chris, “including storms, very high winds, cold weather and even a little snow. But no matter what Mother Nature has in store the community always comes through with continued support.”
Thank you to all the Dr. Goodbear Clinic volunteers. You’re the secret to its success!