Realizing the therapeutic role that plush and cuddly stuffed animals can provide for hospitalized patients, Marco Islander Jason Peach figured why not launch a company to market them? However, they would have to be a little different from their store-bought counterparts, and Jason’s solution was to attach a Velcro strap so the toy animals could be attached to bed rails, TV poles, walkers and wheelchairs for example.
“I got the idea in 2001 when my dad was hospitalized,” Jason says. “He had a stuffed animal that kept falling off his bed. The nurses would put it on a chair or a windowsill.”
That’s how the idea of Bedside Healers germinated.
It materialized in 2012, and besides marketing the “Heart nose puppy,” the “Gold Lab” and the “Black Bear” to hospitals and medical facilities, Jason broadened his market to include individuals as well as corporate functions and promotions.
Here, custom shirts (with screen printed good wishes for patients, or logos and mottos for corporate entities) came into the mix, and the choice widened exponentially.
Jason’s next step was to organize donations of his animals to hospitals by partnering with businesses to hold fundraisers. Portions of funds raised would cover costs.
The most recent beneficiary was the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Fort Myers, which received more than 200 stuff animals following a two-week fundraising partnership on Marco with 2Sheas Salty Dog Restaurant.
“I became good friends with Sean and Jamie Shea—the owners,” Jason says, “and they thought it would be a good way to raise funds and also get some publicity.”
Jason is in the process of his next related initiative—forming a 501c3 non-profit organization to expand on a desire to give back to communities throughout the area. Donations will go beyond the stuffed animals themselves.
“We’re making it our mission to provide to hospitals with anything patients need, or that can make their stay less cumbersome,” Jason explained.
On top of these gestures, the company is also sending one stuffed animal a week to applicants or people nominated on social media. So far, Bedside Healers bears and dogs have found their way to the states of Michigan, California, Florida, North Carolina, and Connecticut.
In conjunction with the recent effort on Marco, students from Gulf Coast High School helped boost the tally of animals to Golisano by 55.