LONG BEACH, Calif., Jan. 4, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Wednesday, Dec. 21, hundreds of teddy bears and plush toys made their way into the arms of pediatric patients at Miller Children's & Women's Hospital Long Beach. The donation was part of the "Bear Hugs Toy Drive" launched by Liset Meruelo, wife of prominent Cuban-American businessman Alex Meruelo, of the Meruelo Group.
During the holiday season, Meruelo Group employees, families and friends across Southern California collect bears and stuffed animals to comfort hospitalized children.
To help deliver the toys and spread a holiday joy, Liset Meruelo brought along a few surprise guests including costumed characters from Party Princess Productions dressed as "Frozen's" Elsa and Anna, and "Star Wars'" Darth Vader, Jedi and a Stormtrooper.
This is the 19th year teddy bears and stuffed animals were collected for the "Bear Hugs Toy Drive," but this year came with an extra special delivery. During the visit, Liset and Alex Meruelo made a donation of $20,000 to support the Music Therapy Program – part of the Child Life Program – at Miller Children's.
Studies have shown that patients who receive music therapy in conjunction with traditional therapies may need less pain medication, go home earlier, and have decreased levels of anxiety compared to patients who do not receive music therapy.
"From our tiniest patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to our teen patients, our Music Therapy Program is instrumental in helping our patients heal," says Laurel Terreri, MA, MT-BC, board-certified music therapist, Miller Children's.
Through their generous donation, the Music Therapy Program will expand to the Infusion Center at Miller Children's. The majority of the patients who use the Infusion Center are children and adolescents with cancer and other serious blood disorders, who need to come back to the hospital on a regular basis for chemotherapy treatment or blood transfusions.
"Treatments and procedures done in the Infusion Center can take anywhere from one to eight hours," says Terreri. "Music therapy can be used as a distraction for patients that may be experiencing anxiety or pain during prolonged treatments."
Liset and Alex Meruelo are longtime supporters of Miller Children's. This is their second donation to the Music Therapy Program. Liset Meruelo also volunteered as a NICU cuddler, where she supports the development and growth of premature babies by interacting with them during times when their parents can't be with them.
"Music heals the soul and when these kids are going through transfusions or chemotherapy, we want to be able to provide them with the support, hope and reassurance that they need to heal," says Liset Meruelo, philanthropist and friend of Miller Children's.
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SOURCE Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach