Everyone loves a good teddy bear. Who doesn’t love a fluffy, snuggly friend? Well, 9-year-old Amy and her Buttony bear have been inseparable since she received him over a year ago. Buttony isn’t just your average bear, though. He’s a stuffed animal designed to teach kids about stomas and ostomy bags–and allow them to realize they aren’t alone.
Like Buttony, Amy has a stoma, which is a surgical opening which attaches to an ostomy bag. This is often a standard procedure during surgeries for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The Buttony Project is part of The Breakaway Foundation, which is a U.K.-based charity for kids with bladder and bowel disorders. Jenny Gow, the project’s co-founder, told The Mighty what inspired her:
“Years ago she gifted a bear to a child who had a gastrostomy button in her tummy. The friend sewed a button onto a bear and gave it to the child so that she had a friend like her.”
Gow launced the project with Lynn Park in May 2015. She went on to explain that she didn’t think the project would take off so quickly (as of now, 681 bears have been created), stating:
“In all honesty we were not prepared for the rush of requests, but we rose to the challenge.”
One parent wrote to Gow, writing how much the bear means to her child:
“Buttony has helped Peyton a lot. Before she used to just say, ‘Mummy had a bad tummy’ but now she is understanding what I have and what it’s called. She comes in the bathroom and changes Buttony’s bag when I change mine.”