20 March 2024

Find out about our 2024 Corporate Charity


The votes are in and staff have chosen Bears of Hope as this year’s recipients of SWSPHN’s Corporate Charity fundraising activities throughout the year.

Bears of Hope provides support and care for families who experience the loss of their baby during pregnancy, birth or infancy.

The not-for-profit organisation is managed by a dedicated team of bereaved parents, offering counselling, grief workshops, grief wellness groups and other resources.

Bears of Hope’s underlying belief is that:

“No parent should feel alone in their grief.”

“You have lost a precious little life, and you may need to lean on others to cope with the heartbreak and the grief. Our hope is that we can embrace you with a network of care and support so you don’t have to grieve in silence.”

Bears of Hope’s Support Services Coordinator, Kelly Merchant, joined SWSPHN’s March staff meeting to talk about her organisation’s work and the loss which moved her to seek out Bears of Hope.

Why is the work of Bears of Hope important?

Kelly said studies had shown grieving families felt safer and less isolated if they knew there were people to support them.

“That starts for us in the hospital,” she said. “We supply support packages to be passed on to families before they leave their baby, to give parents a little knowledge about our services and to make them feel supported from the very beginning of their loss.

“Within those packs there’s literature, a journal and information about our supports. These packs are sometimes left unopened for month. It’s all about choice. It’s all about when families feel ready.”

Kelly said Bears of Hope was started by – and is still led by – two women who had lost their own children and felt there were no services out there for them, and were isolated in their own loss.

“They found each other, and it started with the idea of going into a hospital and donating a bear to provide parents with the comfort of knowing that they’re not alone,” she said. “From there, we’ve grown into a nationwide organisation which provides counselling, workshops and information.”

Kelly, a registered clinical counsellor, joined Bears of Hope after experiencing her own losses – that of her nephew who passed away suddenly in 2000 and the full-term stillbirth of her second child in 2007.

“I came across Bears of Hope at their annual benefit ball and was drawn to the commitment they had to supporting parents,” she said.

“Our overall goal is to have an impact on parents’ grieving and healing by reducing the loneliness, isolation and anxiety.

“We like to think we can empower parents with information and support choices which meet their needs. That’s really important. Grief is such an out-of-control experience, something that’s not familiar to a lot of people, we want them to be able to feel that it doesn’t have control over them.”

What supports does Bears of Hope offer?

Kelly said through Bears of Hope, it was most often families who donated a bear to another family experiencing loss, in honour of the baby they were remembering.

But, she said, the bears were just one way Bears of Hope acknowledged, comforted and guided families through their loss.

“Cuddle Cots are a really amazing invention which we provide to hospitals to keep a baby cooler so parents can spend more time with them and have them in their room with them for longer,” Kelly said.

“Our approach to supporting parents isn’t about removing or curing someone’s pain. It’s about what we can do to help support them and to be able to give them a voice and a safe space to be able to talk about their child in a way that every parent is entitled to.”

Other supports include:

  • a support line, 1300 11 HOPE – grief counsellors available to listen with compassion and understanding
  • grief workshops – a national program of healing workshops on surviving grief and learning how to live through it
  • grief wellness groups – parent-led informal gatherings of bereaved parents who are seeking support or wishing to support others
  • awareness and fundraising campaigns – like Beards of Hope and Choosing Hope Walks – and participation in activities – like the Bowral Classic and Sydney City2Surf
  • online resources for health professionals – with therapeutic tips, brochures with resources for families and referral pathways

Kelly thanked SWSPHN staff for their support, saying Bears of Hope had a small, but “mighty” and hard-working team which continued to provide support to families at no cost through donations from larger organisations like ours.

Learn more about Bears of Hope

Visit our Go Fund Me page to donate