Charlotte Gould, 6, and her best friend Charley Bear hosted a special picnic for children with craniofacial disorders on April 12 in Granada Park in Phoenix. There were bear-shaped cookies and gummy bears, bouncy balls and bubbles, craft projects and games, and, best of all, a special guest of honor—a big bear with stitches right below his nose, just like many of the children there. About 50 children, parents and staff from the Barrow Cleft and Craniofacial Center, where Charlotte receives care, attended.
The origins of this first-time picnic stretch back more than six years to a 20-week ultrasound appointment. That’s when Nicole Gould learned that her little girl would be born with cleft lip and palate, a condition that would require multiple surgeries at Barrow Neurological Institute.
Nicole called Cleftline, a toll-free service offering information about clefts and other craniofacial disorders. Soon after, Charley Bear arrived in the mail. “He was this incredible little bear and had these stitches sewn onto his face. I thought, ‘Wow! Here is something she’ll always be able to cuddle.”
Sure enough, Charley Bear became an integral part of Charlotte’s life. So much so that when Charlotte was just two years old, she told her mother, “I want all babies like me to have a bear.”
Today, Nicole and Charlotte work to see that every child at the Barrow Cleft and Craniofacial Center has a special craniofacial bear. Each year, Nicole asks guests to Charlotte’s birthday party to bring a cash donation instead of a gift, and Charlotte gives her birthday loot to pay for the bears, which come from the Cleft Palate Foundation. The bears go to four or five new patients at the Barrow Cleft and Craniofacial Center each month. Some of them went to new homes at the picnic.
“We hope these bears will be distributed forever,” says Nicole.
As for Charlotte, she’s in kindergarten and just learned to ride her bike without training wheels. The future looks very bright indeed.