Detroit Zoological Society, University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Partner to Provide ‘Care Companions’ for Pediatric Patients

More than 100 plush animals given to children at hospital in Ann Arbor

August 10, 2023

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS), along with University of Michigan Health, have formed a partnership that is putting smiles on the faces of children at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

More than 100 “Care Companions” – also known as “plush” animals – were recently distributed to pediatric patients at the Ann Arbor, Michigan hospital, where children got the chance to act as a veterinarian or zookeeper and provide medical care to “polar bears,” “tigers,” “giraffes” and more.

“Participating in this kind of play is just one way to help children feel comfortable with and active in their own care when spending time in the hospital,” said Nadia Thompson, education specialist for the Detroit Zoological Society. “Being in the hospital for any amount of time can be stressful for not just the children, but their families as well. We want to be a light in their day and bring smiles to their faces however we can, and the Care Companions program makes that all possible.”

The “Care Companions” program is a collaboration between the DZS education team and University of Michigan Health, and DZS team members plan to visit C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital on a quarterly basis to provide these plush animals to pediatric patients.

“C.S. Mott is excited to partner with the Detroit Zoological Society to help spread joy to our Little Victors through the ‘Care Companions’ program,” said Luanne Ewald, Chief Operating Officer of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “We are thankful to DZS for helping bring entertainment and fun to our Little Victors and their families during difficult times.”

The partnership is already providing lasting memories for children and families. A 12-year-old patient, who received his plush animal penguin from the Detroit Zoo years ago, brings “Petey” everywhere he goes, including to every appointment and procedure – meaning the plush is certainly well-loved. When DZS and Michigan team members discovered the boy’s love for “Petey,” they made sure to give him a brand-new plush penguin so “Petey” could have a new friend to play with.

“The teams taking notice to Zakaria’s love for Petey was heartwarming,” said Kelly Byska, Zakaria’s mother. “Seeing the joy the new plush brought to Zakaria during his hospital stay was priceless.”

The “Care Companions” program is part of a series of partnerships the DZS has with other local hospitals, including Children’s Hospital of Michigan. For more information about the program, please contact DZS Education Specialist Nadia Thompson at