Providing comfort to kids one teddy at a time

Volunteers Mary Jo Weston and Rose Middleton with some of the adorable teddy bears made by Cowra resident Shirley Flint.

Volunteers Mary Jo Weston and Rose Middleton with some of the adorable teddy bears made by Cowra resident Shirley Flint.

They come in all different colours, with very cute, little outfits but more importantly, they are providing comfort to children and families when it is needed most - all thanks to one creative Cowra resident.

For a number of years now, Cowra's Shirley Flint has been hand knitting teddy bears for seriously ill children at Ronald McDonald House.

Executive Officer Rebecca Walsh said Shirley's work has been appreciated by hundreds of families.

"They are beautiful, they are absolutely beautiful," she said.

"Watching the child just hugging that teddy bear, and watching their face, seeing the parents talking to them about how beautiful the teddy bear is, every family that gets one is so extremely grateful.

"Also a little bit surprised they've been gifted something so it's nice to be able to do that."

Ms Walsh said Shirley makes ten teddies at a time, with families across the state taking home a gift from the heart.

"It's a little bit of a process to complete something that's so beautiful and so intricate so we gift them in special cases," she said.

"I think it was only recently that a Cowra family came to stay with us in a bit of an emergency and we gave them one of the teddy bears for their little one."

According to Ronald McDonald House's statistics, Cowra families make up a large proportion of people who utilise the service.

50 Cowra families have stayed 59 times at Ronald McDonald House for a total of 256 nights. In addition two families from Gooloogong, one from Greenethorpe and one from Woodstock have used the service.

Grenfell and Canowindra, two of the smaller populations in the Central West, have quite a number of families that have stayed at Ronald McDonald House.

12 families have stayed 13 times for a total of 66 nights from Canowindra, while 23 Grenfell families have stayed 24 times for 115 nights.

67 families have used the service in Forbes, while Parkes tops the list at 120 families.

Ms Walsh said the majority of cases are high risk pregnancies and child and adolescent mental health issues.

"We are seeing more high risk pregnancies coming to stay with us, and I think we can put that down to Orange has a fabulous health service here to be able to support soon-to-be mums and potentially they don't have the services in their home towns to be able to cater for that," she said.

"The other area that continues to grow for us is child and adolescent mental health, and they are our longer stay families... if you look at it terms of room nights, mental health [cases], they are 50 per cent of our room nights."

She said volunteers are the backbone of the service, racking up a total of 57,361 hours from 2015 to 2019.

"We could not do what we do on a daily basis without our volunteers," she said.

"That also includes board members... ball committee and then our volunteers that keep our house operating on a daily basis... we've got overnight volunteers that stay on site while we ever have a family staying in the house."