The Friends of Jack Foundation Brightens the Hospital Experience in Collaboration with Southcoast Health Certified Child Life Specialists

If your child has been admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital over the past five years, there is a very good chance they may have received a Hero Bear from the Friends of Jack Foundation.

These bears are funded by the Friends of Jack Foundation at Charlton Memorial and St. Luke’s Hospitals. During a low moment, these bears, along with their superhero capes and masks, have done wonders to bring some happiness to our pediatric patients and their caregivers.

St. Luke’s has two amazing Certified Child Life Specialists, Kara Levoshko and Molly Johnson, who guide our youngest patients through medical experiences in the hospital, before surgery or even during an overnight stay. With the support and funding of the Friends of Jack Foundation, the Child Life Department has been able to expand services and hire additional staff.

“Our role as Child Life Specialists is to help normalize the hospital environment for our patients and their families,” said Molly Johnson. “We can help prepare these patients so they know what to expect and offer distractions during uncomfortable procedures such as getting an IV. By integrating play into the hospital, we help patients and their families cope with medical situations and try to make their experience as enjoyable as possible while they are here.”

Southcoast Health and the Friends of Jack Foundation have been close partners since the New Bedford-based non-profit was established in 2019.

The Friends of Jack Foundation was started by Jill Fearons to honor her son Jack’s remarkable medical journey. Jack, who is now 12 years old, was at one point on life support for six weeks and given a five percent chance of survival.

Doctors and staff at St. Luke’s Hospital played a key role in Jack’s care and subsequent recovery. The Fearons wanted to bring the same opportunities that their family was afforded to those in Greater New Bedford, especially families in need.

“My family is blessed that we had the means that allowed me to drop everything during Jack’s illness,” said Fearons. “Many families in our community do not have that same luxury and so we started the foundation to help make the experience for everyone as good as it possibly can be.”

Today, the Friends of Jack Foundation’s fingerprints can be found almost anywhere throughout St. Luke’s where a child receives care, and their support has had a profound positive impact on the experience of the children in our community who need to seek medical attention for an injury or illness, and their family members.

“Jill is a huge advocate of Child Life Services and having the support of the Friends of Jack Foundation is amazing,” said Kara Levoshko. “With their help we have so many additional resources to expand our program and provide services to pediatric patients we may have not been able to assist without them.”

The foundation provides some of the toys, coloring books, and other activities that the Child Life Specialists utilize throughout the year to help make the hospital experience less traumatic for the patients. In fact, in some circumstances, if your child had a scheduled surgical procedure, they possibly were able to drive themselves into the operating room on a battery-powered car provided by the Friends of Jack.

Working closely with the Manfredi Foundation, the foundation also provides custom-made pillowcases for kids in the pediatric inpatient unit, and hand-knit caps for newborns in the maternity department. These small touches can make a big difference for pediatric patients.

“Steve and Christine Manfredi have been amazing partners to us and Southcoast Health,” explained Fearons. “Christine makes all of these wonderful pillows and hats by hand and drops them off like clockwork.”

Together, Southcoast Health, Child Life Services and the Friends of Jack Foundation are making tangible changes to improve the physical, mental and emotional health of children in our communities.

“We are fortunate to have dedicated partners like the Fearons Family and the Friends of Jack Foundation who ensure we have the resources to provide exceptional care to our community,” said Ethan Kehoe, Senior Advancement Officer at Southcoast Health. “We are grateful for their continued generosity and support of the Child Life Specialist program at St. Luke’s. Thanks to the Friends of Jack, so many families in our region have benefited from this specialized care.”

To learn more about the Friends of Jack Foundation, visit their website at

Click here to learn more about the Child Life Program at Southcoast Health.