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The Billy Bear Hug Foundation

Affectionately named for President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt in the early 20th century, the teddy bear has become an iconic symbol worldwide for comfort and love. For one organization it means so much more. The Billy Bear Hug Foundation was established in 2010 in remembrance of Billy Wondergem, an aspiring pediatric oncologist who simply wanted to help people. 

Charlie Wondergem, Billy’s brother and co-founder of the Billy Bear Hug Foundation explains, ”The most important part of the Foundation is our focus on need. So many organizations do research on illness, but ours tries to bring comfort.”

Billy Bear Hug, based in Michigan, distributes teddy bears to children in Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Hospice of Michigan’s pediatric hospice program. It also runs grief camps for children coping with the loss of family members and holds special events, such as birthday parties, for terminally ill children. Starting in the fall, the organization will begin distributing hats and accessories for children undergoing chemo. They also plan to expand their camps.

Charlie remembers one of his favorite events: “Last summer, we had a young boy turning seven that was only given a few months to live. So, we rented a Spiderman costume, got a cake and threw a birthday party for him and all his friends at his house. We wanted to do something special. ”  

Special is exactly what the Billy Bear Hug Foundation is. In 2012, the Foundation created a youth advisory board. Wondergem illuminates, “The mix of football players, theater students and teens from different backgrounds creates a balance with our executive boards. It makes it kids helping kids.”

 Charlie Wondergem recognizes that a sentiment is important not only for the organization but for this generation of students.  And it’s for those students he has a message: “ Don’t be fearful or let anyone tell you you’re too young or it won’t work. If you’re guided by a set of beliefs or a passion, you will be successful.” 

The teddy bear, it’s message and President Roosevelt may be recognized world wide but the Billy Bear Hug Foundation, the amazing man it was named for and it’s remarkable work, mean the world to the families it helps.