LITTLE teddies crafted at the skilful hand of Betty Atherton and made just the right size for a small hand to hold, have come to be known as “trauma teddies” at Whakatane Hospital’s emergency department, where the toys are given to young children who are facing difficult situations.

The crocheted teddies created by the long-time crafter are used to bring comfort and distraction to those facing difficult, painful or traumatic situations, and Friends of the Emergency Department volunteers who distribute the toys say they really do help.

“They can bring considerable comfort to a child,” says Lynne Hayes who has given countless children a trauma teddy over her many years as a Fed at Whakatane Hospital.

“Each and every bear is different. They’re beautifully made. They’re just gorgeous and families are often blown away when they see them. And what’s even nicer is that the children also get to keep them. It’s just lovely.”

The concept of trauma teddies was born four years ago when Betty began making the teddies with an eye to donating them to the hospital.

Already an avid crafter, Betty had been making such things for years. “I’ve always loved to play around with wool and colours to create different things,” she says. “I’ve always been making one thing or another.” But in more recent years, she says her crafting has become prolific.

The teddies gathering in a basket in her lounge awaiting delivery to the hospital are by no means alone. There are monkeys and dogs and other creatures, and dozens of brightly-coloured infant booties, too, all of which Betty donates to charities.

At the suggestion that a child receiving one of Betty’s toys is a lucky one, she humbly defers the luck to herself. “I’m the lucky one,” she says. “It’s an absolute pleasure to make them. It’s a joy. I really love doing it,” conceding though, that it’s the thought that the toy might bring comfort or joy to a child that inspires her. “I do love to think that,” she says.

“It’s always nice to be giving something to the community, and people are so kind. Wool just comes to me. I’ve only ever needed to buy a few balls over the years.”
Judging by the actions of her mother, Betty’s prolific production of special little things is unlikely to end anytime soon.

She says her 96-year-old mother, Dora Candy, has been knitting clothing for children up to the age of 10 years for as long as she can remember, with all garments always donated to Eastern Bay charities.

“Mum can’t see very well anymore. She has macular degeneration, but she keeps on knitting using mostly her sense of touch.”

While Betty’s range of toys may continue to expand, she says her trauma teddies are always reserved solely for children at the hospital emergency department.

Around 20 teddies are given out in the department each month.

By Lorraine Wilson