A teddy bear’s picnic

Back in October 1999, Freemason Ian Simpson took his wife, Angela, to Southend Hospital’s A&E unit after she had an allergic reaction causing her windpipe to swell and block. Anxious and frightened, the couple decided to do something to say thank you to the A&E staff and, with the help of Ian’s lodge, the Teddies for Loving Care Appeal was born.

Bob Olive (left) with Ian Simpson chairman of TLC.

Teddies for Loving Care (TLC) is a simple idea. Freemasons donate money to their lodge’s TLC appeal, and the appeal donates teddy bears to the local A&E to be given to distressed children receiving treatment. The first TLC bears arrived in A&E units in March 2001.

The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes is patron of TLC and he announced that as part of the 2017 Tercentenary celebrations, each Province would hold a Teddy Bear’s Picnic. So, at the behest of Tony Harrison Provincial Grand Master a Teddy Bear’s Picnic was indeed held at Wellington Park, Leyland the home of the Province of West Lancashire.

Bob Olive, Chairman of the Preston and Chorley TLC, was more than pleased at being asked to organise the picnic and set about arranging a wonderful afternoon’s entertainment. Invitations were sent out across the Province and he was pleasantly surprised at the response he received and at the event he was honoured with the presence of Deputy Provincial Grand Master Philip Gunning who was accompanied by his wife Ann, Peter Taylor Provincial Secretary and family, Chris Blackwell Leyland Group Chairman and his wife Jane and Ian Simpson founder and chairman of TLC along with his wife Angela and of course, the charities’ mascot, ‘Big Ted’ who had travelled up from Essex specially for this event.

There were a good number of brethren and their wives and partners present too, some of whom had travelled from across the Province and from Preston, Chorley, Southport and of course from the Leyland Group to show their support and enjoy the afternoon. Following the introductions and a brief history of Teddies for Loving Care, all the guests enjoyed afternoon tea, some with a glass of Prosecco.

Philip Gunning and his wife Ann along with ‘Big Ted.’

First on the agenda was the spring raffle draw. Earlier in the year TLC for Preston and Chorley had organised a spring draw. With there being four main prizes with each ticket selling for £1 there were lots of takers for a chance to win the top prize of £150. The other three prizes were for £100, £50 and £25. The draw took place on the afternoon with Ashley Watts from Blackpool winning the top prize; John Dean from Leyland, Jim Collier from Preston and Suzan Thorpe from Chorley taking the remaining prizes respectively. Bob thanked everyone for taking part in the draw on behalf of the children who would benefit from such a donation.

Following this raffle draw all the assembled guests were then entertained by Preston Musical Comedy Society formed in 1953; they are one of the most highly regarded companies in the North West and continue to present top quality musicals and pantomimes for the local Preston people. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment.

During his closing speech, Bob Olive said he was more than pleased to announce that, as the chairman of Preston and Chorley TLC to date, nearly 30,000 bears had been supplied to both the A&E Departments of Preston and Chorley Hospitals for the use of staff to assist making children’s visit there less traumatic. He went on to say that this represents, in real terms, Freemasonry being seen in the community 12 times a day through the distribution of these comforting bears to children.

Bob thanked Ian Simpson for making the journey up from Essex along with his wife in showing support for the event and of course for the organising committee. Ian was more than pleased to have travelled up country to see Bob and the picnic revellers at first hand knowing that there had been a good support from this Province. Bob also thanked everyone for their generosity and their support of the event too and he hoped that everyone had enjoyed themselves and that he looked forward to a similar event supporting TLC in the future.

Preston Musical Comedy Society entertains.