Delivering Build-A-Bears and smiles to kids who need them more now than ever

For years, Major League Baseball umpires have made in-person deliveries of Build-A-Bear® furry friends to hospitals across the country and in Canada. But as everyone knows, 2020 has been anything but normal. Kids undergoing treatment are more isolated than ever as visitors to hospitals are limited and playrooms have limited access to ensure patient and family safety because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, our umpires are committed to bringing these children smiles and letting the kids and families know they are not forgotten or alone.

UMPS CARE Charities, the official philanthropy of the Major League Baseball umpires, made a virtual delivery at St. Louis Children’s Hospital today even though the coronavirus has changed our usual routines. Thanks to the St. Louis Cardinals and Build-A-Bear Workshop, 120 furry friends have been shipped to the hospital, and UMPS CARE Charities – thanks to a generous donation from COUNTRY Financial – is providing 120 Build-A-Bear® Halloween outfits. The Cardinals are generously providing bingo game prizes, including pillowcases and mugs.

As part of the virtual hospital experiences, UMPS CARE is providing baseball-themed activity books and boxes of crayons for the kids and squishy baseball-styled stress balls. Major League Baseball umpires Tripp Gibson and Mike Muchlinski hosted a Q & A session with kids in the hospital and played baseball bingo, along with Fredbird, the St. Louis Cardinals mascot. They even taught Fredbird how to deliver umpire calls!

“All of us at UMPS CARE Charities are so grateful that our partners at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the St. Louis Cardinals have been able to make this event possible during these challenging times,” said Jennifer Skolochenko-Platt, Executive Director at UMPS CARE Charities. “Even though our umpires cannot be there in person this year, they are excited they can still brighten the day for kids undergoing treatment in the hospital who really are in need of a smile.”

“Our mission to support kids in the community is as important as ever as we navigate these unprecedented times, said Michael Hall, Vice President of Community Relations & Executive Director of Cardinals Care. “We’re happy to partner with UMPS CARE Charities to bring some cheer to patients and their families at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.”

Matt McCoy, a former Minor League Baseball umpire who now works as a financial representative at COUNTRY Financial in Chester, Illinois, wanted to get involved in this event as a way of paying it forward. Fourteen months ago, his son, Cayden, was born premature and was treated in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

“Occasionally, the nurses would drop off goody bags to our room, and it meant so much to my wife and me,” McCoy said. “We are grateful that Cayden is home, healthy and doing great, but we wanted to be able to help and give back to other families who are going through challenges like we did.”

“UMPS CARE Charities are MVPs in the hearts and minds of our patients and families,” said Malcolm Berry, chief development officer of St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Many thanks to UMPS CARE, the St. Louis Cardinals, Build-A-Bear® and Matt McCoy of COUNTRY Financial for bringing lots of smiles and the magic of the Halloween spirit to St. Louis Children’s.”

This visit to St. Louis Children’s Hospital marks the fourth virtual visit UMPS CARE Charities has made this season. For information about potentially planning a hospital program, please contact Jennifer Skolochenko-Platt at jenn@UmpsCare.com.

UMPS CARE Charities wishes to thank the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Build-A-Bear® and Matt McCoy of COUNTRY Financial for making this Halloween event possible.