12,000th teddy handed out at Sunderland Royal Children's A&E ward by Freemasons group
A scheme which hands out teddy bears to poorly youngsters at Sunderland Royal Hospital has helped its 12,000th patient.
The Durham Freemasons programme helps to alleviate distress to young patients at the Royal's children's Emergency Department.
Assistant Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Durham, Craig Steel, was able to hand over the 12,000th TLC Teddy.
TLC Teddies are small bears that are distributed to Emergency Departments to distract children who need urgent and emergency treatment and give them a friend to hug.
They are handed out by hospital staff to help children cope with the distress of receiving treatment and to keep them company if they have to go for an X-ray or to the fracture clinic.
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust was one of the first paediatric emergency departments in the region to take the bears.
Fundraising for the project has been undertaken by the Freemasons of Durham, who have raised around £25,000 to provide the teddies.
The TLC project was launched in Durham in 2005 and to date, the Freemasons have provided over 83,000 bears to local hospitals, children's hospices and respite centres.
Fundraising is undertaken by local Masonic Lodges and all proceeds are used to buy the TLC teddies for the benefit of sick and injured children across the North East.
Ken Bremner, chief executive of City Hospitals Sunderland and South Tyneside Foundation trusts, said: "We are extremely grateful for the support that we receive from the Durham Freemasons.
"The TLC teddies make a huge difference in comforting children when they come into our Emergency Department.
"Our team often need to diagnose and treat a child very quickly and this can be quite distressing, especially in young children.
"By having a bear to hug can ease that distress and also provides a great prop for us to show children what treatment we need to give them, taking the fear away.
"We have received great feedback from parents and staff and would like to thank everyone who has fundraised for this fantastic project."
Duncan Maw, TLC Teddies Coordinator in the Province of Durham, said: "It's a major fundraising effort for every Freemason in the Province of Durham but seeing a distressed child's face light up makes it all worthwhile.
"The fact that the Freemasons of Durham go to major efforts to ensure that funds are provided to do this is something we should all be justly proud of."