Since 1956, patients at Akron Children’s have received a small hand puppet named Pinkie to help calm fears and brighten their hospital stay.
Now, a new breed of gifts is making its way to patient rooms, thanks to support from the Akron Children’s Hospital Women’s Board, Holiday Tree Festival committee and the Friends of Akron Children’s Hospital.
Barkers, a mixed-breed stuffed dog, may not have a wet nose or a wagging tail, but the love and comfort he’ll offer patients is just as genuine as a real dog – and a true gift to those who receive him.
“Our volunteers brought Pinkie the Puppet to children for years, but we were having a hard time finding sewers and supplies to keep the project going,” said Linda Churchman, president of the Friends of Akron Children’s Hospital. “We voted unanimously to support Barkers. He represents the love our volunteers have for these children, and I think kids are going to love receiving him.”
Patricia Grant, president of Akron Children’s Women’s Board, agrees.
“We’ve been supporting the hospital’s efforts to give our patients a gift since 1956 with Pinkie the Puppet,” Grant said. “Our group wanted to continue the tradition so we decided to invest in Barkers, who we believe will also be loved and adored by patients now and for years to come.”
Barkers is not only a gift for patients, but also an honorary member of the Akron Children’s Doggie Brigade.
“Volunteers put on the Holiday Tree Festival and they bring us the Doggie Brigade so Barkers seemed like an excellent project for our committee to support,” said Mary Leuca, chair of last year’s Holiday Tree Festival. “Barkers will make children happy, as well as allow our group to give back to the community and make it a happier place.”
Just like his Doggie Brigade peers, Barkers will cuddle with patients, have his own trading cards and get his picture featured in the Doggie Brigade hallway.
“Barkers is a wonderful gift and, like our Doggie Brigade, will bring much comfort and joy to our patients,” said Vicki Parisi, director of volunteer and visitor services at Akron Children’s.
Born on the hospital’s birthday, Oct. 20, Barkers was designed specifically for Akron Children’s Hospital by Ty Inc. The 8-inch, plush dog sports a bandana in either Children’s Hospital blue or Pinkie the Puppet-inspired coral pink.
The one-of-a-kind dog also has a blue brother and pink sister available for purchase in the hospital’s gift shops for $8.
Barkers isn’t for sale, though. Only children up to age 12 who are hospitalized at Akron Children’s will receive the cuddly friend as a gift from a patient representative.
As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’re telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.