Knitters and stitchers (from left) Lana Miller, Maria Di Palma, Yasuko Nossiter and Edwina Doe. Photo: Australian Red Cross/Heather Smith

Every Thursday a group of eight or so Sydney friends meet up at Red Cross for their version of finishing school.

But it’s not the sort of finishing school you might imagine – they’re not balancing books on their heads to practice good posture nor are they learning fine dining etiquette. Instead, this school is where thousands of knitted Trauma Teddies are lovingly stuffed and stitched together; the finishing touches in preparation of meeting their new owners.

All over Australia, these iconic Red Cross teddies are handed out to children and adults who are dealing with crises, from floods and fires to severe illness or injury.

The teddies are for people of all ages, says Edwina Doe, who has been with the Sydney group since 2004. “The value of Trauma Teddies is almost immeasurable. I’ve heard stories about very sick children who just can’t be calmed until somebody gives them a teddy.

“I get emails about teddies being lost and asked to make another one exactly the same. I knitted two teddies for an elderly couple who were the parents of a friend of mine. They’ve both died now and were buried with their teddies.”

Perhaps the teddies are so popular because of the love and care that goes into making them. Edwina, a seasoned pro, can make one teddy, from start to finish, in about five hours.

She is one of thousands of volunteers around the country who volunteer their time to make the cuddly bears. In Greater Sydney alone volunteers knitted 18,000 teddies last year – and all of them visited the finishing school.

“There are groups that meet regularly to knit and sew,” says Edwina. “They’re remarkable women, many of them are in their 80s and they’ll carry on while they have illnesses or their husbands have illnesses.”

Edwina has made lasting friends among the finishing school volunteers. “We’re involved with each other’s lives and we sit there sewing and chatting. It’s a bit of a little community.”

Helping to make the teddies combines her love of knitting and volunteering, she says. “I’ve always volunteered; I’ve been doing it since I was at school. It’s just what I do. I’ve got a bit of a suspicion it creates a bit of adrenaline that keeps me going.”

For more on Trauma Teddies visit: redcross.org.au/trauma-teddy