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news News Monday, November 2, 2020 Wednesday, October 28, 2020 10:50 AM - Wednesday, October 28, 2020 10:50 AM

A hug from La La Higgy Bear

Stuffed animals specially made for patients with scoliosis

A hug from La La Higgy Bear

Arrya’s eyelids were drooping toward sleep mode as she sat in her wheelchair with her bedazzled halo traction device holding her head upright.

Having had surgery less than 24 hours before and just gone through a tough physical therapy session, the 6-year-old Kentucky girl was in serious need of a nap. Clutched in her left arm as she gave up the fight and drifted off into dreamland was her new stuffed animal, which she named La La Higgy Bear.

The bear was a gift given to her by Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis, thanks to a donation from Higgy Bears, a Kalamazoo, Michigan-based nonprofit that makes stuffed animals for kids being treated for scoliosis.

“She’s been carrying it with her everywhere she goes in the hospital,” said Melissa Warren, a radiology technologist who spearheaded the effort that led to the donation of 10 Higgy Bears.

These are no ordinary stuffed animals. Higgy Bears come with miniature replicas of the equipment children receive when they are treated for scoliosis. Arrya’s bear has a brace similar to the type she has worn. Others have rods inside them and come with an X-ray that shows the hardware along the bear’s spine.

“These bears make them feel like they’re not alone,” Melissa said. “They have a little buddy they can hold onto that’s just like them.”

The idea to seek the donation came after Melissa saw a patient this spring who was holding a Higgy Bear before her X-ray. She contacted the company owner, Lauren Higgerson, a former scoliosis patient herself. Lauren jumped at the idea of donating some of her company’s goods to the St. Louis Shriners Hospital.

“I just love Shriners Hospital and everything it stands for,” she said.

The remaining bears will go to patients over the next few months, though Melissa does have specific plans for one of them. She’s sending it to Mia, current National Patient Ambassador and former St. Louis Shriners Hospital scoliosis patient.

“She’s had 17 surgeries with us,” Melissa said of the 16-year-old Illinois resident. “I think she’s earned it.”

Follow Higgy Bears on Instagram, like them on Facebook or visit the company’s website.