ECU nursing students support abused children with cuddly donations

Groups of ECU College of Nursing students recently collected hundreds of teddy bears to donate to the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center. (Photos by Jeremy Smith)

When there is need in eastern North Carolina, East Carolina University’s College of Nursing always answers the call to serve.

This has been evident throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as nursing students and faculty logged thousands of hours helping provide vaccines, assisting at testing sites and providing other community resources. And this commitment to serve led the college to become the first in the state to offer courses in health care emergency and disaster management.

But a recent initiative by the College of Nursing was noticeably softer and cuddlier than previous service projects.

After hearing the pandemic had caused a teddy bear shortage at the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center — the state’s largest advocacy center for children who may be victims of child abuse or neglect — several groups of ECU nursing students sprang into action and coordinated a teddy bear drive that brought in donations of hundreds of the stuffed animals from across the state.

“The response was a lot bigger than what we thought it would be,” said Tyree Hyman, a senior nursing student, whose group collected about 130 bears. “It was fantastic to see how many people cared about supporting this good cause and the kids who unfortunately suffer through the things they do.”

Senior nursing student Brooke Barham recruited help from her sorority, community members, her church group back home in Graham and even nursing students from other colleges.

“It was nice to be able to educate others about what the TEDI BEAR clinic is and who the teddy bears are for, because who they are for is really enlightening,” said Barham, whose group collected more than 50 bears. “And it’s particularly enlightening for us because we’re able to help other people even though they’re not our patients. They are people we’re actually able to speak up for and advocate for.”

ECU College of Nursing students recently delivered teddy bear donations by the bundle to the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center to help cover a supply shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The influx of hundreds of teddy bears even took TEDI BEAR officials off guard.

“We’re a little low on teddy bears because we serve 600-700 children a year and, due to COVID, we were not able to replenish our supplies, and that was hurting our clinic. So, we were just hoping to get a couple of bears,” Bonnie Jean Kuras, a community educator for the advocacy center, said after the nursing students presented her with piles of the stuffed animals.

“I am speechless,” she added. “I texted everyone over at the clinic to say, ‘You’re not going to believe this. I can’t fit everything in my Prius.’”

Dr. Sylvia Brown, dean of the College of Nursing, was less surprised by the students’ efforts.

“This is Pirate Nurses,” she said. “Part of being a Pirate Nurse is giving back to the community in service, not only in the care that we give our patients and their families, but also through the projects we do such as this.”

To learn more about the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center, visit its website.