There’s a dog on the loose at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). He roams the hallways, peeks behind closed doors, and patiently waits outside treatment rooms. He is the cuddliest, most loving dog that has ever “lived,” and he is known for his uncanny ability to sniff out lonely and hurting hearts a mile away. His name is OwieBowWowie and he has one purpose in life: to comfort the “hurts and hearts” of kids facing life-threatening illness without family or friends to comfort them.
OwieBowWowie and Friends was created more than 20 years ago by Gina Woods. She created this comfort toy based on her own experiences as a child who faced numerous illnesses and hospitalization on her own, and then on one life-changing experience as a young woman.
In her early 20’s, Gina was hospitalized for treatment for a serious illness, and was placed in the pediatric ward due to a lack of beds in the adult ward. Her little roommate was recovering from surgery due to a brain tumor, and Gina observed that no one came to visit her. She pulled the nurse aside and asked “What’s the story? No one has come to visit her at all during these last few days.” The nurse informed Gina that the little girl had no one.
One day the nurse brought the little girl a stuffed dog, and as soon as the nurse left the room, Gina saw the dog go flying across the room. Being a mom herself, Gina got out of bed, retrieved the dog and brought it back to her young roommate. “What’s wrong, honey?” she asked. The little girl said adamantly, “That’s not my toy…it’s BROKEN.” Gina noticed that the stuffed animal did in fact have a tear in its ear.
Thinking quickly, she took medical gauze and tape from the little girl’s bedside table and wrapped the stuffed animal’s head up to match the child’s. “It’s not broken, honey. He just has an owie like you. He’s your Owie BowWowie,” she said. Thus, OwieBowWowie was born.
It has taken twenty years and literally tens of thousands of Gina’s own dollars, but Gina’s comfort toy “Owie” is now the only approved stuffed animal allowed in the hospital for their sickest kids.
Over 20 million children per year are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness across the United States. One thousand children are admitted to CHLA each month for treatment. Forty-two percent of these children have no friends or family to comfort them during their life-saving treatments. The demand for Owie’s special talents is on the increase as the number of hospitalized children who are “wards of the court,” lost in the foster care system, have lost parents to substance abuse, or simply have one parent trying desperately to keep her other
children housed and fed grows. The reasons are many and varied. Each, however, leads to the same circumstance: a child left alone to face his or her critical illness.
Gina is now in the process of developing OwieMeowie, a comfort kitty for the children of Northridge Hospital’s CATS Program (Center for Assault Treatment Services). Northridge Medical Center’s CATS Program treats over 200 children a month, none of whom can be touched with reassurance – or hugged by the Center’s caring staff. The need for something tangible for these physically and sexually abused children to cling to is immediate. OwieMeowie will bring these precious children comfort where even the most well-meaning adults can not.
To learn how you can help Gina’s effort to bring comfort to kids suffering alone with a life-threatening illness, check out www.OwieBowWowie.net, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (805) 497-0534.