NEW PORT RICHEY — They came in all shapes, sizes and colors as some 200 plush bears were donated to HPH Hospice staff at its Teddy Bear Picnic.
Nita Fox was the host for the 14th annual event at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Hudson. While no luncheon tickets were sold, admission simply required each patron to bring a new teddy bear.
The cuddly bears will go to bereaved children and teens who are receiving counseling through HPH’s Children’s Assistance Program and who participate in an HPH bereavement camp.
Other plush toys will be placed in one of the not-for-profit agency’s Hospice Care Centers in Pasco, Hernando or Citrus counties to provide comfort for a terminally-ill child or one who may be visiting a loved one who is a patient.
Fox, 80, a Hudson resident and HPH volunteer, is credited with starting the picnics.
She acknowledges a fondness for teddy bears. As a gifted crafter, she leads St. Martin’s Outreach Ministry. The ministry collected the bears during the past year as did other groups, including the West Pasco Quilters Guild, the Barrington Hills Quilters Guild and the Aripeka Crafty Ladies Group.
Laura Finch, HPH’s bereavement manager, spoke to the more than 50 luncheon attendees about the CAP program, which is now entering its 21st year, making it the oldest hospice children’s bereavement program in Pasco and Hernando counties.
Finch and a staff of six highly trained CAP counselors work exclusively with children and teens who have experienced the death of a loved one under hospice care.
Additionally, some of these children have had loved ones died unexpectedly due to a major health event, car accident, suicide, drug overdose or murder, Finch explained.
“Our goal is to help children learn to cope, express and normalize their grief,” Finch said. “Grief feels abnormal but it’s really a very normal process, so we try to help children understand it better.”
HPH will hold its 2104 bereavement camp for kids ages 10 to 18 in March at Lakewood Retreat in Brooksville and its summer camps for elementary school children in June.
For more information on the agency’s CAP or adult bereavement programs, call (727) 863-7971 or visit www.HPH-Hospice.org