Bear Hugs Program

What is a Bear Hug?

Our goal is to wrap children and their families in love and support so they can focus on getting better. Our flagship program provides dream experiences called Bear Hugs to brighten the lives of children with cancer.

We partner with families to design a customized Bear Hug that meets a child’s unique needs and interests. A child may choose to attend a Bears game and walk on Soldier Field, see a Broadway show, take a ride on their brand new bicycle — the possibilities are endless!

Whatever a child’s dream, our team works with our close network of friends, donors, and volunteers to make it come true. Every Bear Hug is different because every child is different, and we get to know our families personally to provide something truly special.

Why are bear hugs important?

Bear Hugs provide unforgettable moments for the entire family. One mom shared, “We are so incredibly grateful for the support Bear Necessities has shown us. Jaden’s Bear Hug brought him so much joy during one of the most difficult times of his life…Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for families like ours!”

The importance of our work is backed by science: feelings of hope and optimism lead to better psychosocial outcomes for children with cancer(1). Positive emotions in children can promote resilience, improving an individual’s overall well-being(2). Bear Hugs inspire hope and joy so children build the strength to cope with their illness.

Who Qualifies for a Bear Hug?

Any child, ages 0-19, currently in treatment for pediatric cancer and living in the state of Illinois, or being treated at a hospital in Illinois, qualifies for our services. We also work with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. We support families at initial referral and up to four relapses — because we fight harder than pediatric cancer.

If your child is eligible for a Bear Hug, please complete our quick online application.  Bear Necessities will confirm patient information and diagnosis with the hospital team provided on the application prior to acceptance.

Questions? Email [email protected] or call 312-214-1200 x25.

Going above and beyond: mibg Rooms

We give special support to patients receiving MIBG treatment. Patients receiving this high dose of radiation are placed in a special room with limited outside contact. All items in the room cannot be removed later or kept by the child. We provide room decorations, soft blankets, toys, and more to help every child feel as comfortable, hopeful, and happy as possible while receiving this treatment.

You can make a difference

Your support makes Bear Hugs possible. If you would like to fund a Bear Hug, please donate today. If you would like to donate gift cards, discounted hotel stays, electronics, or other frequently requested items, please contact [email protected] or 312-214-1200 x25.

Research shows the impact of our work. Learn more here:


(2) Psychology in the Schools, 2008

Riley | Age 4 | diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma

“Riley was diagnosed with lymphoma in September, and by October, treatment caused hair loss, weight loss, and weakness so he couldn’t walk. He lost interest in his toys. He only wanted to lay down and watch TV. We stayed at Ronald McDonald house, and their family dining area had a Pac-Man machine. It was the first thing Riley showed interest in. It made him smile and laugh. Within a month, you delivered the exact same machine to us, and it has brought so many hours of fun and enjoyment. He only likes to play it together with the two of us, so it’s a fun escape for us both. We can’t thank you enough for giving my son joy when he had none.” –Kim, Riley’s mom

Bobby | Age 17 | diagnosed with B Cell Lymphoma

“Bobby was totally blown away when he received his Bear Hug gift. Not only did it pick him up and make him feel so special, his new Apple Watch has been an incredible tool to utilize in his recovery from treatment.  Not a day goes by that he doesn’t wear this Apple Watch you bought him!  His heart rate was extremely high after his chemotherapy, and the watch made him feel safe being able to monitor it all times.” –Jen, Bobby’s mom

Elena | Age 4 | diagnosed with neuroblastoma

“Where do I begin with the American Girl doll shopping spree!   Elena had a blast. It was such an amazing experience with our very own personal shopper. Thank you again for this. It was something she will always remember. Something I will always remember.” – Ruby, Elena’s mom

Brighten the life of a child going through cancer with a Bear Hug

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Chicago Headquarters

55 West Wacker Dr, Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60601

(312) 214-1200

Florida Chapter

Serving Golisano Children's Hospital
& greater Southwest Florida
Contact: [email protected]