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PrayerBear Turns 25: Inspiring Hope and Nurturing Love

PrayerBear: Inspiring Hope and Nurturing Love

By Jennifer Hayes, MDiv, Director of Spiritual Care and Ethics

Prayer BearFor 25 years, Spiritual Care has provided PrayerBears to admitted patients as a source of comfort and encouragement.  The gift of a PrayerBear inspires hope, nurtures a spirit of love, and invites community support for our patients and families.               

In 2022, Robin Brazell, Interfaith Ministry Specialist, and her volunteers shared 16,955 PrayerBears with Cook Children’s patients.

The PrayerBear Program functions as an important link between our community, patient families, and our Spiritual Care department—a link not based upon religion, denomination, spirituality, or personal belief, but a link that names the sacredness of every single child who enters our care.

The program is completely donor funded. Our donors include community groups, faith communities, and even former patients and families who valued their PrayerBear and wanted assure the next child was able to receive a PrayerBear, too. 

PrayerBears are often the first point of contact patient families receive from the Spiritual Care department which, in turn, lays the foundation for spiritual and emotional support to be provided by our chaplains.

Each PrayerBear is accompanied by the book PrayerBear’s Big Adventure—a creative collaboration between Spiritual Care, Child Life, and the CARPE team—and our patients are able to use their imagination as they travel throughout the Medical Center with their own PrayerBear in tow.  The book allows patient families of every faith tradition and spiritual background to find value in the story while also highlighting other patient engagement opportunities, such as the Child Life Zone, Bomar Library, and the Erma Lowe Chapel.

Inside each book is a prayer card that invites patient families to add their child’s name to a HIPAA-compliant prayer list that is distributed to hundreds of people and organizations each week. The Prayer Ministry provides opportunities for patient families to share their burden which nourishes spirits and instills hope.

The design of the book was specifically chosen with our Behavioral Health patients in mind, using materials that cannot be taken apart or used in acts of self-harm.

Prayer Bear DonationsMore than that, though, the book’s main character captures the diversity we experience in our patient population. Respect is fostered through the book’s inclusivity. The book is available in English and Spanish. Spanish materials are often simply translated directly from English, so this simple act of kindness elevates the experience of underrepresented populations in subtle details that connect action with respect. This lets our patients know, very clearly, that, "I see you. You are valued." We also provide supplemental information about support services in Spanish.

Each PrayerBear is presented with respect to each patient family. Not only does this kind and generous gift brighten a child’s day, but a PrayerBear reaches across cultural and religious differences to connect families of every faith—or no ascribed faith—with our Spiritual Care team.

Spiritual Care nurtures the spirit of Cook Children’s, and nothing better nurtures the spirit of a child, especially a child who is sick or injured, than receiving a PrayerBear.