By Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (September 28, 2023) — Fort Leonard Wood’s Retiree Survivor Support Group donated no-sew fleece blankets and stuffed toys for children in need to installation first responders and hospital staff Sept. 21, during a ceremony in the Army Community Service lobby.

For pediatric hospital patients and children in emergency situations, the experience of uncertainty, unfamiliar surroundings and the presence of strangers can be extremely frightening — having something soft and warm to hold can be a tremendous comfort, said Michele Nichols, a registered nurse at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, who accepted the donations on behalf of GLWACH’s Emergency Department.

“Having a personal blanket made special for those patients or be handed a bear to hold on to can help soothe anxiety and fears, bring warmth and comfort, and help make a personal connection with the staff,” Nichols said.

Organized under ACS’s Survivor Outreach Services program, the support group came up with the idea of donating what they call “bears and blankets” in 2017, after the group’s facilitator, Jody Carmack, saw a news story about a police department that gave stuffed animals to children during crisis calls.

“I thought, ‘we can do that!’” Carmack said. “I was running the idea past Katrinka Good, the RSSG leader, and we started brainstorming what else we could do. The idea of adding a blanket with each stuffed animal was born, and doing no-sew fleece blankets would allow all of our group members to participate, since these take no special skills or tools.”

The first set of bears and blankets was donated to the Fort Leonard Wood Directorate of Emergency Services in 2018, Carmack said, adding it takes about an hour and a half to put each one together — 25 volunteers were involved with this most recent donation.

One of those volunteers was Mary DeShurley, who decided to donate stuffed bears to the project.

“I was so overcome by the dedication of all concerned,” DeShurley said. “It gave me such satisfaction and honor to be involved.”

Nichols said a blanket was recently given to a child with an injury, who was brought to the GLWACH Emergency Department.

“The ED’s ambient temperature is often cool, and we find many of our patients require a warmed blanket during their stay,” Nichols said. “However, they are the generic, not-so-soft hospital-grade blankets. Fortunately, this time, we were able to bring out the fleece blanket made special for our pediatric patients and the child’s face went from sad to smiles almost immediately. They were so proud of their gift as they carried it with them upon discharge. The parents thanked our staff for making their child feel safe and comforted. We owe our appreciation to the Retiree Survivor Support Group for helping provide that added comfort to our littlest patients.”

Installation first responders and hospital staff pose for a photo Sept. 21 in the Army Community Service lobby with volunteers from Fort Leonard Wood’s Retiree Survivor Support Group, who donated no-sew fleece blankets and stuffed toys for children in need. (Photo by Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office)













About Fort Leonard Wood

Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post 80 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains nearly 80,000 military and civilians each year.

Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.

Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.

More information about Fort Leonard Wood is at: