The charity initiative “Teddies for Loving Care” (TLC), which originated in Essex in 2002, has been providing comfort to children in hospitals for over two decades. The idea was conceived by Ian Simpson, a Freemason, after his wife’s life was saved by the quick response of an A&E unit following a severe allergic reaction. The couple, deeply grateful for the care received, were inspired to help alleviate the fear and distress children often experience in A&E units.

The TLC initiative was introduced after extensive research and discussions with local Freemasons. The teddies, which meet strict toy safety regulations and are designed to be appealing to children, are used by medical staff to demonstrate treatments, helping to soothe the fears of young patients. Over two million teddies have been distributed across the country, funded primarily by Freemasons, but also through donations and the sale of TLC merchandise.

The TLC scheme was launched in Devonshire in 2008, with the first teddies being delivered to Torbay Hospital. Other hospitals in Exeter, Plymouth, and Barnstaple followed, and teddies were also given to Little Bridge House, a children’s hospice in Barnstaple. Medical staff use the teddies to comfort children suffering from trauma, injury, or illness, and often a child will find a teddy waiting for them in their hospital bed.

The TLC initiative has not only provided comfort to children but has also raised public awareness of the community contributions made by Freemasonry. Recently, the “Devonshire Freemasons Teddies for loving care” became a formal charity, making it eligible for Gift Aid, which provides an additional 25% from the government on donations from taxpayers. A new teddy design was launched in February 2022, featuring a larger label and a heart-shaped nose.

Keith Bower, the Devonshire Freemasons Organiser for TLC, celebrated the milestone of 75,000 teddies by presenting a large teddy to NDDH. Pat Davies, an NHS Adv Clinical Physiologist at NDDH, praised the initiative, stating that the teddies “really break the ice” and make hospital visits “a lot less traumatic for children.”