Orlando ladies club creates therapy dolls for hospitalized children

"Me" dolls are simple faceless dolls that fill a big need for young patients

By Paul Giorgio - Producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - The members of Ventura Sunshine Ladies Club are this week's Getting Results Award winners.

The club members have been making "Me" dolls for Florida Hospital since 2011. "Me" dolls are simple faceless dolls that doctors and nurses use to demonstrate procedures to kids in the pediatric center.

Project organizer, Betsy Ulbrich, says the dolls have become what she calls a cottage industry in their Ventura neighborhood.

She says the dolls and materials move from one member's home to the next until they're complete.

"I take the supplies to people. I hang material on a couple of the women's doors so they know that there's more dolls to make," she says. "So I sort of organize the project."

When we caught up with the ladies club they were together in the neighborhood clubhouse, exchanging stories and putting the finishing touches on a few dolls for the next batch.

Nussi Afroz, Special Events and Donations Coordinator for Florida Hospital, says the dolls are an important part of pediatric care.

"We're able to communicate with then through play and we're able to get rid of any misconceptions that have about the hospital," she says. "The children are able to personalize the dolls and draw their own face on them with markers. The way they draw can be a window into the child's state of mind."

The dolls are dressed in hospital gowns and matching hats. They also try to match the material with appropriate holiday themes. The kids get to pick out their own doll made with different shades of white and brown skin tones.

The group has delivered 925 dolls to the Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital, they say they should reach 1,000 soon. The number is one they're both proud of and saddened by.

"We're about to reach a landmark," Christine Wanta says as she traces the pattern of a doll on fresh fabric. "And when I think, this has been a lot of fun and we enjoy doing it, but there's been a thousand children that these have gone to and that's a little hard to think."

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