On 12th March 2001 an extraordinary, and unique, scheme was launched by Essex Freemasons: it was a simple idea – to raise funds to provide Essex A&E departments with Teddies for the medical staff to give to children brought into their care to help relieve their distress.
Back in October 1999, Freemason Ian Simpson took his wife, Angela, to Southend Hospital’s A&E unit after an allergic reaction caused her windpipe to swell and block. After finding themselves so anxious and frightened, the couple decided to do something to say thank you to the A&E staff and, with the help of Ian’s lodge, the Teddies For Loving Care appeal was born. And, ten years after what started so successfully as a purely local scheme and which been extended to all the A&E units in Essex, Ian, then the TLC Chairman, marked the gift of the one-millionth teddy bear.
However, where that happened, nobody is entirely sure, because TLC had been so successful that it had been taken up not only by masonic provinces all over England, but had gone global. Now, two decades after its launch, TLC is still going strong. Three million teddies have been cuddled by children in hospitals in every country under the Grand Lodge of England’s banners. Medical practitioners everywhere agree on the benefits the teddies bring.
"It means so much to the nurses" one says. "It makes our lives easier and the children feel safer, and it’s not so traumatic for them. The teddy system works so well because it’s such a simple idea. It’s something the children love and makes them feel special. The parents see that you really value their child, they’re not just another number and they’re being seen as an individual."
And the teddy bears aren’t just employed to comfort the child either; nurses will quite often use them as a diversion technique as they work, like using the teddy to mimic the injuries the child has, perhaps putting a sticky plaster on the teddy’s arm if the child has hurt theirs. And now the scheme has taken another step forward. Current Chairman Robert Whittingham explained: “Last year, the fund presented a grant of £10,000 to the Child Death Review Team.
"The team is based in Harlow, Essex and is made up of former nurses and other medical practitioners. They respond to all child deaths reported in Essex, ranging from cot death to teenage suicide, support the families at the time of death and after, and make introductions to other support agencies. They also attend Coroners’ inquests to give evidence and further support the families, and liaiase with other agencies such as the Police in any formal investigations."
Robert added: “The donation is being made to enable them to purchase books and other specialist materials given to bereaved parents and siblings at an awful time. The literature enables parents to explain to surviving siblings what has happened and help them to understand.”
Today there are 47 regional TLC programmes across England and Wales that provide teddies for their local A&E departments. Once a hospital joins the scheme they can replenish teddies on request through their local TLC representative. Some TLC programmes also donate a portion of their TLC funds towards teddies for minor injuries units, children’s wards and hospices; there are even teddies flying on air ambulances!
Recent months have seen the introduction of a new model of teddy and Essex, as the founder of the scheme, is proud to have been the first Province to receive supplies for its hospitals, medical units and air ambulances.
Pictured above: two young children attending Princess Alexandra Hospital Children’s A&E Department. Pictured are (right) Sister Ruth Goddard (TLC Contact) (left) Sister Sam Reeves and (middle) a parent of one if the children. Also pictured is Laura Ryan, the play team lead at Basildon Hospital, holding some of the new teddies. Laura is responsible for ensuring the teddies are given out to the children.
In his 84th year, Bro Voltaire proved it is never too late to become a Freemason by being Initiated and made an Entered Apprentice of the Lodge of the Nine Sisters in Paris. Among the distinguished visitors was Benjamin Franklin who later became Master. Born in 1694 and famous for his travels, wit and irrepressible grin seen on hundreds of paintings, sketches, caricatures, statues and busts, Voltaire once wrote “Let us always march forward along the highway of Truth, my brothers, grinning decisively”.
Philosopher, historian, and writer who also led many campaigns against injustice, inequality and tyranny and who introduced the term “Human Rights”, Bro Voltaire is described on his tombstone monument in Paris as the ‘Immortal symbol of the Age of Enlightenment’.
Learning to be a successful investor whilst living in London in the late 1720s Voltaire never had to rely on book sales or aristocratic patronage for the rest of his life. He loved England, especially the coffee houses and the London Exchange, writing that “There the Jew, the Mahometan and the Christian deal with each other as though they were all of the same religion”.
Having lived a long, full and eventful life, it appears that one of the World’s greatest ever Philosophers found in Freemasonry the same ‘Brotherly Love’ and tolerance for all religions and denominations to work together, similar to that which had impressed him so much in the London Exchange where “the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist and the Anglican accepts the Quaker’s bond”
Voltaire’s grin and wit stayed with him all his life, even during his dying hours when a Jesuit priest, who had been sent for, urged him to renounce the devil to which Voltaire softly replied “Now is not the time to be making enemies”. Fortunately for the Age of Enlightenment, which greatly influenced the development of Freemasonry, Bro Voltaire also refused to renounce any of his works before his ‘passing’ to the Grand Lodge Above on 30th May 1778.