If you looked out across Janet Hopper’s third grade class at Horace Mann Elementary, you would see a lot of special and unique faces. There is one in particular that might catch your eye: a plush, smiling one. “Beary,” a 40-inch teddy bear, is the newest third grader at Horace Mann. He participates in everything that the class does. From lessons in the classroom to recess on the playground, Beary is involved and taken care of by the other third-grade students.

While in class, Beary sits in Maribel’s seat. Maribel is a third grader who recently had open-heart surgery and is receiving treatment from the Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. In order to fully recover from her surgery, Maribel is attending Horace Mann on a part-time basis. That is where Beary comes in. Beary is a part of the Bear in the Chair program provided by the Children’s Hospital Foundation and Love’s Travel Stops.

Bear in the Chair is a program designed for patients aged 4-14 whose treatment requires them to be out of school, helping them to feel connected to their classmates and their classmates to them. Teachers are encouraged to take videos and pictures of the class interacting with the bear so that the patient is able to recognize the support system they have back at school.  The hope is that by staying in contact with their teachers and friends, patients have a quicker recovery process and less trouble integrating back into the classroom.  

Kalsey Rojo, a Kids Care Assistant at the Children’s Hospital Foundation, recently visited Ms. Hopper’s class to deliver Beary and answer any questions the students might have.  In addition to the class’s reception of Beary, Maribel also received her own smaller version of Beary to go with her when Beary is at school.

Ms. Hopper’s third-grade class is patiently waiting for her recovery, but until Maribel is able to return to school full-time, Beary will be there to provide the connection to her friends and teachers that is so vital to a healthy school experience.

To learn more about the Bear in the Chair program, visit www.chfkids.com/bear-in-the-chair.