Donated bears bring smiles to Oakwood from 'all over the world'

It’s not every day children in hospital beds receive a one-of-a kind teddy bear to raise their spirits.

Children in the pediatric care unit at Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center (OHMC) and at the Center for Exceptional Families recently received 75 teddy bears by a small team of volunteers from United Airlines.

Nemir Jaffer, an operations representative for United Airlines, initially expressed interest in Oakwood after seeking a volunteer opportunity through the company. A Dearborn native, he also felt a strong connection to the hospital.

“I think of Oakwood as part of the community and felt this opportunity was my way of giving back to the kids,” said Jaffer. “My brother and I were born here at Oakwood, and I knew right away this is the place I wanted to donate my time to.”

Over the years, United Airlines has sought to increase its volunteering services as well as charitable donations for the communities it serves. The company has achieved this goal through its “Oliver D. Worldly” adventure bears. The bears are uniquely identified because of their own travel vests, personal passports and a luggage tag on their ears.

One bear at a time, children were personally handed the Oliver D. Worldly bears by the volunteers.

“The kids were very excited,” said Nancy Gorski, Community Health Volunteer Service Representative at Oakwood. “You could see their eyes light up as well as a huge smile on their faces. It was great.”

The unique bears appealed to more than just the patients, too. Doctors, nurses and even the volunteers expressed interest in Oliver D. Worldly.

“I’d want a bear, and I’m 30,” joked Richard Buttigieg, a volunteer for United Airlines. Buttigieg also explained the meaning behind the bear’s chosen name. “His name is Oliver D. Worldly, which if you break it down slowly means ‘All over the world.’”

“It really brought a sense of hope and joy to the kids making this whole experience worthwhile,” said Jaffer. “We look forward to volunteering our services again in the future.”

CUTLINES: (Above) Nemir Jaffer, Beverly Davis, Sherry Whitehead, Tiffany Lopez, Richard Buttigieg and Ayman Mustafa dropped off 75 stuffed bears to two Oakwood locations recently. Below: Lopez and Jaffer have an armload of donated bears for the Center for Exceptional Families.