Sheriff offers cuddly comfort to hospital patients

Volunteers, deputies distribute 150 stuffed animals
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Bobbi Mower was brought to tears when a volunteer unexpectedly gave her husband a sock monkey Tuesday. The Roseville resident wouldn’t let go of the stuffed animal as she thanked Placer County Sheriff’s volunteers for giving them a gift that reminded her of the ones her grandmother used to make. “They brought me the one toy I wanted from back when I was a little kid,” Mower said. The cherished sock monkey was one of about 150 donated stuffed animals sheriff’s volunteers handed out to patients at Sutter Roseville Medical Center Tuesday as part of the sheriff’s annual “Cuddles for Comfort” outreach event. This is the seventh year deputies and volunteers have gathered together to bring holiday cheer in the form of soft, plushy stuffed animals to patients and their families. “It’s something for them to hold on to and keep them comfortable during the holidays,” said Deputy Victoria Skellenger, who is the Placer sheriff’s volunteer coordinator. On Tuesday, a small group of volunteers was guided through the different wings of the hospital. Jan Giberson, clinical manager for the medical unit at Sutter Roseville, has escorted the volunteers and deputies for the past three years and said “it’s such a good feeling” to see how patients react. “(The patients’) faces light up,” Giberson said. “It’s such a wonderful yearly event that takes place. The volunteers bring joy.” When they approached John Alexander’s room, Skellenger quietly walked in with a stuffed dog to offer to the Merced man. Alexander was visiting his brother in Roseville when he fell ill and was hospitalized for heart troubles in the center’s cardiac unit Dec. 13. Alexander said he was “completely surprised” by the drop-in gift and said it helped make his stay better. “It’s an emotional roller coaster being here,” Alexander said. “Then you have a good day and you get something like this and you know it’s going to be OK.” Downstairs in the rehabilitation center, Bonnie Stevenson was working on her balance when volunteers gave her a stuffed bear. “I think that was really nice of them,” Stevenson said. “It’s sweet to look at.” Once Mower regained her composure after being handed the sock monkey, she came out into the hallway to thank volunteers for the special gift. “I feel like this is a message from my grandmother,” Mower later said. Mower and her husband, Richard, have been at the medical center’s oncology department since Saturday when Richard Mower was admitted for issues relating to his cancer diagnosis. The couple said the earliest they can expect to leave is Christmas Day. Richard Mower said it was “very nice” for the volunteers to stop by and unwittingly give them a sentimental gift. “This was unbelievable,” Richard Mower said. “She has a soft-spot in her heart for those sock monkeys.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at