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families find comfort after losing a loved one
March 3, 2021

Families Find Comfort After Losing a Loved One

ThedaCare’s Hopes & Dreams Program Provides Special Memories

APPLETON, Wis. – When someone is on their end of life journey it can be a difficult and emotional process for everyone involved, including family members who will carry on their loved one’s memory.  

With support from the ThedaCare Family of Foundations, the ThedaCare Hospice Foundation offers the Hopes & Dreams program. It was created to enrich the lives of patients in hospice care by creating lasting memories and granting final wishes. One way they’ve had an impact is by recording sweet messages from patients to their loved ones to cherish their memory. The recorded messages are then placed inside a Build-A-Bear.

“When our children first received the bears, they would sleep with them at night and we would hear them push that button over and over,” said Beverly Caron, the mother of two children who received bears in 2016 just days before their grandma passed away. “It was really nice because it was something they could hold and touch and still hear Grandma’s voice, even today.”

Caron said the gift of the bears also provided a much needed distraction for the family while their grandmother was in hospice care.

“This was something we could go and do as a family,” she explained. “We picked out the bear, and went through the process. It was nice to give the kids something to enjoy in the midst of something so sad. And it created a lasting memory for us.”

Jane Shea, Hospice Volunteer Specialist for ThedaCare at Home, said the Build-A-Bear program is special for elderly patients who want to leave their grandchildren something to help remember them.

“They can then hear Grandma’s voice long after she passes on,” said Shea. “And there’s just something about allowing children to create that toy themselves, there’s value in that.”

Volunteers with the Hopes & Dreams program truly want to help make a difference. In addition to the Build-A-Bear program, funds are used for special requests such as a plane ticket for a family member, celebration of a milestone like a birthday or anniversary or other special requests.

Shea explained one story that stands out from the Build-A-Bear program.  

“A patient wanted to sing a birthday song for his family members to have, but it was too long for the recording device,” she said. “One of our volunteers was able to find a recorder that would hold the longer message, and the patient was able to sing his birthday song for his family to have. The message was put into a bear. Then, it became like a traveling birthday bear for his family to have on birthdays after he passed. It was incredibly special.”

Since the inception of the Build-A-Bear program with Hopes & Dreams, thousands of teddy bears have brought comfort to patient’s families.

Jane adds they are always looking for volunteers who want to have an impact in someone’s life. Volunteers are able to provide much needed respite to caregivers by visiting with patients.

“Having a loved one enter end-of-life care can be an emotional and stressful time for any family,” explained Shea. “The Hopes & Dreams program offers a way to both alleviate some of that stress and create an exceptional experience for families and their loved ones, and we are very proud of the volunteers who make it possible.”

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please contact Jane Shea at for more information on volunteering opportunities.

To learn more about the ThedaCare Family of Foundations and the impact of donor support, or make a donation, please visit or email

Photo 1 Caption: The Caron family received bears from the Hopes & Dreams program in 2016, just days before their loved one passed away.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care

Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care. For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.