BOISE -- Hundreds of children here in Idaho use feeding tubes due to illness. So, a group of Idaho moms started an organization called Tubie Friends.
These dedicated moms work with hospitals, doctors, and families to provide comfort to kids who have to eat this way. They came with what they call "Tubie Friends".
Tubie Friends are cuddly stuffed animals with what is called a "button" sewn in to them. This button is a medical device that allows children who use feeding tubes to eat through their tummies. They help kids like Jacob Serre.
Jacob's Tubie Friend is named "Milo".
"I got this one a long time ago, and he has a button too," Jacob pointed out.
"All the kids want something that looks like them, so that was just awesome for him to have something that he could show his friends and say 'Look, Milo has one too,'" explained Jinjue Serre, Jacob's mother.
Deborah Orr and Sheila Lee also have kids who use feeding tubes. Both boys were born with Laryngeal clefts.
"What we do is a gravity feed, we pour his formula in and just let it slowly go into his stomach," said Orr.
"Sam has had a feeding tube since he was 3 and-a-half," Lee said.
The moms met in August through a support group.
19:34 I don't want anyone else to go through what Sam went through when he was tiny," explained Lee. "He was scared to death having that tube come out of his tummy."
For years, parents like Sheila have been sewing the buttons into cuddly stuffed animals to comfort their kids through the process.
Last year, she had an idea -
"I just out of the blue contacted AMT, Applied Medical Technology, and asked if they are willing to donate their expired or defective buttons," Lee explained.
They agreed! Then Kimberly Clarke came on board. Suddenly, these Tubie Friends were a reality.
The word is out on Facebook and it's catching on like wildfire. Requests are flooding in.
"A project that started out intending to be just for local kids has now gone viral," said Lee. "We're supplying these bears now pretty much throughout the U.S."
Just this week, these moms and their kids went to Build-A-Bear to make more Tubie Friends. Build-A-Bear has been a huge support for them.
"They just made an assembly line and each kid would bring the bears in and they would perform the surgery and sew the buttons in," Lee described.
They deliver them to local pediatric surgeons, GI specialists, and to local hospitals like St. Luke's Medical Center.
"What we know about kids is that they learn through play," said Malia Woessner, St. Luke's Child Life Specialist. "The Tubie Friends are the perfect opportunity to use play to explain the experience to the kids and help them process what it's like."
This homegrown idea is now growing thanks to these moms with a passion for their kids.
Tubie Friends is always accepting donations. For more information, visit their Facebook page.