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Thousands attend CHEO Foundation annual Teddy Bear Picnic

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After a long "paws," the 37th annual CHEO Foundation Teddy Bear Picnic made a return on Sunday, to say thank you to the community as the children's hospital celebrates its 50th year.

The event is back for the first time in five years, kicking things off with a celebrity breakfast, where CTV’s-own Patricia Boal was serving pancakes.

"We’ve got kids coming in through the gates. We’ve been planning this for some time as you can imagine it was great to be finally here and seeing everybody have some fun," said Steve Read, the president and CEO of the CHEO Foundation.

9-year-old Mila brought her two much-loved stuffed animals for a check-up at the CHEO Bear Hospital.

"I want them to get a check-up because I don’t know if they need more stuffing," she said.

At the bear hospital, volunteers were on hand mending much-loved stuffed animals from check-ups, to surgery, to patching up little arms.

CTV's Patricia Boal handing out pancakes at the annual CHEO Foundation Teddy Bear Picnic on June, 16, 2024. (Katelyn Wilson/CTV News Ottawa)

"It just warms our hearts, it’s a reminder of how important this institution is for the well-being of all kids and our whole community," said Alex Munter, the CEO of CHEO.

The event is a way to say thank you to the community for all the support over the past 50 years.

"We’ve had to use the services of CHEO, so we understand the importance of having the hospital in the community, we’re very supportive," said Ottawa resident, Michelle Peralta.

CHEO's 50th anniversary is a big milestone for the hospital that has helped many families, including 4-year-old Rosalie who remembers her visits fondly.

"I love CHEO, it’s very important to me," she said.

Whether it’s a hug, someone to put a smile on your face, or sing a song, CHEO staff and the community were out in full force, celebrating its many programs. Isaac the therapy dog was also on hand celebrating a big milestone of his own – his 10th birthday.

"When children come in, we want them to be as comfortable as possible," Emily Jamieson, CHEO's vice-president of corporate philanthropy and engagement.

"These extra programs make them feel like they’re somewhat at home when they’re going through procedures and challenging times."

A child feeds a goat at the annual CHEO Foundation Teddy Bear Picnic on June 16, 2024. (Katelyn Wilson/CTV News Ottawa)

CHEO has been a major institution in the nation's capital since 1974, serving children and their families not only from eastern Ontario but also from northern Ontario, western Quebec and Nunavut.

Last week, the CHEO Telethon on CTV Ottawa raised $720,600 after a two-week campaign of raising money and awareness for the hospital.

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