UMPS CARE Charities, in partnership with our friends at Sports Officials Care, delivered 100 Build-A-Bear® furry friends and solar eclipse glassses today to young patients undergoing medical treatment at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.

Cleveland was in the “path of totality” for a solar eclipse on Monday, April 8 –  the same day as Cleveland Guardians’ home opener – so we thought we would bring baseball fun to kids. In addition, the city also hosted the NCAA Women’s Final Four, so we added a women’s basketball official to our hospital lineup.

Including this delivery of 100 Build-A-Bear® stuffed toys, the umpires also provided 100 outfits for the furry friends, baseball-themed activity books, crafts and solar eclipse glasses to young patients and their caregivers who wanted to get into the spirit of the upcoming total eclipse.

Retired Major League Baseball umpire Jerry Meals, who makes his home in Northeast Ohio, was joined by the umpire crew working Opening Night for the Akron Rubber Ducks (Class AA umpires Matt Blackborow, Charlie Welling and Garret Griffin) to deliver the Build-A-Bear® stuffed toys to kids at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.

Typically, our events feature baseball umpires only but because the NCAA Women’s Final Four was also in
town, we decided to open up this event to other sports officials in partnership with our friends at Sports Officials Care!

Mark Butterworth, who served as NFL Replay official  for Super Bowl LVII in 2023, and Ohio-based women’s basketball official, Charlene Lybbert in honor of the NCAA Women’s Final Four being in town.

“We wanted to bring the excitement of the upcoming solar eclipse to kids in the hospital,” said Jennifer Skolochenko-Platt, Executive Director at UMPS CARE Charities. “There is a lot of excitement in Cleveland with the eclipse, the Guardians’ home opener and the NCAA Women’s Final Four, and this was a way we could capture that fun for kids who are facing medical challenges. The umpires and sports officials could deliver Build-A-Bear® stuffed toys and solar eclipse glasses as a way to let these kids get their minds off of their treatment for a bit and have fun.”

This visit to Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital marks the 210th delivery of Build-A-Bear® furry friends that UMPS CARE Charities since the program was created in 2006. Including the visit today, UMPS CARE has delivered more than 21,365 Build-A-Bear® stuffed toys to children in hospitals across the country and in Canada.