Shannon Blair first heard of the doll mission when her mother was moved into a nursing home. She has Alzheimer’s and suffered a heart attack, so she required around-the-clock monitoring that Shannon couldn’t provide on her own.
Her co-worker, Sandy, kept asking about her mother until one day Shannon found out why. Sandy wanted to give her mother the gift of a baby doll.
“I was a little baffled when she brought it up, but I said alright,” Shannon said. Together, the two women went to the nursing home with dolls for Shannon’s mother and her roommate.
“My mom didn’t have much of a reaction at first, but when I turned the corner to her roommate, Ms. Green, she immediately reached out — both hands fully extended and took the baby and brought it to her chest,” Shannon remembered.
When it came time to care for Ms. Green, the staff could hardly separate her from the doll.
It was then that Shannon realized the power that these dolls have for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. She learned that Sandy regularly hands out these dolls with her husband, Wayne, in memory of his late mother.
“While she was transitioning from home to the nursing home, she was very lonely,” Sandy explained. “So we took her a baby doll and it just became her baby. It was just amazing the difference it made in her.”
Pearl, Wayne’s mother, was so taken with the doll that the family buried it with her when she passed away. Now, they’re bringing the happiness of a doll in every nursing home they can.
“We started doing it at as many Christmases as we could do. And my husband would dress up like Santa and I would go with him and we would pull the wagon and take the babies to the people,” Sandy said.
When Shannon saw the effect the doll had on her mother and Ms. Green, the two decided they wanted to bring enough dolls and stuffed animals for the whole home. They talked to the nursing home staff, got a head count, and put their plan into action.
When it was all said and done, Shannon and Sandy handed out 28 baby dolls and four stuffed animals. “We would hand a baby and then just cry for a while. It was overwhelming,” Shannon said.
Shannon posted about the mission on Facebook, and her post exploded. It now has almost 200,000 shares, and Shannon started receiving messages from all over the world.
“I’ve received messages from 17 states, Nova Scotia and England. And that’s just from the messages I’ve been able to read,” she said.
She worked with Sandy to set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the dolls. “My goal is for Sandy to have her own non-profit one day,” Shannon explained.
Now, all they have to do is get a website. “That way we can give people direction on how to do this in their communities, worldwide.”
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