Bear Hugs Program

What is a Bear Hug?

We provide customized experiences called “Bear Hugs” to brighten the lives of children with cancer. We work closely with each child and family to design a Bear Hug that meets their unique needs and interests, helping kids feel like kids again. Every Bear Hug is different because every child is different, and we get to know our families personally to provide something special. We know that small moments can make a big difference.

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. In addition to Illinois, we partner with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. We also support families for up to five relapses because we fight harder than pediatric cancer.

If your child or someone you know would like a Bear Hug, please contact your hospital social worker to receive our referral paperwork. Questions? email [email protected] or call 312-214-1200 x25.

To make more Bear Hugs possible, please donate today.

Why are bear hugs important?

Our Bear Hugs Program inspires hope and joy within children so they have the strength to cope with their illness.

Feelings of hope, optimism, and perceived support lead to better psychosocial outcomes for children with cancer (The Journal of Pediatrics, 2008). In addition, positive emotions in children can promote resilience, improving an individual’s overall well-being (Psychology in the Schools, 2008).

Our parents have reported that a Bear Hug lifted their child’s spirits when they needed it most. We are honored to provide special, unforgettable moments for the entire family.

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 that enter the room cannot be removed later or kept by the child. We provide room decorations, soft blankets, toys, and other items 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.

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

Bear Discoveries helps cutting-edge researchers to ultimately find a cure

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Donate Today to help the children and families fighting pediatric cancer


Chicago Headquarters

55 West Wacker Dr, Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60601

(312) 214-1200