Correction: Previous photo captions for this article incorrectly identified the group making the donations as “The Southeast Alaska Panhandler’s Motorcycle Club.” The club is now known as the Panhandlers Motorcycle Club of Alaska. Additionally, the man in the photo unloading the toys is not Ted McKnight. The man in the photo is Joe Bingham.
Eagles, bears and even a few unicorns were dropped off at Bartlett Regional Hospital Tuesday as part of a local motorcycle club’s donation effort.
The toys are used to comfort children who come to the hospital, either as patients themselves or with family members.
“We had some children that we knew that were sick,” Craig Fowler, president of the Panhandlers Motorcycle Club, said of how the toy drive began 25 years ago. “We just wanted to do something and it just developed.”
Each year since, bikers drop off several garbage bags full of hundreds of stuffed toys. The club partners with the Louie’s Douglas Inn and the Triangle Club downtown to collect money for a charity barbecue, where the public can donate stuffed animals.
Fowler said the response from the community is tremendous and that local people and businesses always ask how they can help with the toy drive.
“We have them on hand for any department to come get for a child who is in the hospital or maybe with a family member just to soften the experience,” Katie Bausler, community relations director for the hospital, said of the toys.
She added, “I know the staff feels like it’s something that we need every year,” she said.
Kim McDowell, director of Bartlett’s emergency department, said they give the toys to children who are scared, injured or stressed.
“We give them to kids if their moms are injured because we don’t want them to be scared of health care providers,” she said.
The toys are given mostly to children, but McDowell said sometimes the toys are given to patients that are developmentally-delayed or autistic, or if they have a good sense of humor.
“We gave one to an 18-year-old kid that came in one year,” McDowell said. “We said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a treat for you,’ and we brought him on of those unicorn pillows, and he loved it, he thought it was great.”
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.