As COVID-19 lockdowns threw our lives into turmoil, in the Blue Mountains town of Springwood, a small yellow teddy bear was helping provide a connection many older residents desperately needed.
The Australian Red Cross is well known for its Trauma Teddies - colourful bears lovingly knitted by community members and given out to children facing a difficult time, whether that be fleeing a natural disaster, being taken to hospital in an ambulance or having to stay in hospital, as a warm welcome for refugee children, or as a happy face in troubling or lonely times.
However, one bear in Springwood found itself very widely travelled.
Since 2006, Springwood Red Cross members would take it on trips around the world and send photographs of its adventures to fellow members.
That was until COVID hit and national and international travel came to a halt.
With branch members being on average 75 years old, many found the lockdowns to be isolating and disconnecting, especially as many of their usual Red Cross activities were also curtailed.
Not to be beaten, however, this adventurous Ted, with minder and Springwood branch president Sue Roden in tow, set off on some local bushwalking adventures with photos once again sent to older members.
Sue, who does a lot of walking in the beautiful bush around Springwood, took Ted with her and posted pictures of him at lookouts and with many of the flowers and rocks spotted on her walks.
Since then some members have been inspired to do the walks themselves.
"It was a way for our members to stay connected," Sue said.
"Most of them are on email and we would all chat via email every week."
Now that lockdowns are lifting and borders have opened, it's possible Travelling Ted will get a chance to go on more local and interstate jaunts and eventually may even head overseas again.
The Springwood branch has given out more than 1000 Trauma Teddies to ambulances, hospitals, family services, police, schools and many other services in the past 12 months.
It also decorated the windows of its meeting hall with teddies, much to the delight of local children (and adults).
Help is always needed to knit, sew on labels or attend periodic working bees.
The active branch, which has around 60 members, also runs a shop (corner of Greenway Lane and Macquarie Rd) on Thursdays and Fridays, fundraises with raffles and other events, provides personal support to people in need, and runs a breakfast club for primary school children to ensure they can start the day with a good meal.
Members get together monthly on the second Tuesday at 1.30pm at Springwood Hall for a meeting and afternoon tea. New members are always welcome.