For a week, Tara Holman’s husband drove their SUV to work from their Naperville home, the back overflowing with stuffed animals.
“They were tumbling into the backseat,” she said of the donations her daughter’s Girl Scout troop had collected as a service project.
The stuffed animals were bound for Angelic Creations Doll Store and Hospital on Washington Street to be repurposed for other furry animals that need new eyes or fur.
Girl Scout Troop 50958 at Steeple Run Elementary School was looking for a recycling project for the yearlong journey initiative when the idea to donate old dolls and stuffed animals came up.
“We were working on recycling, not putting stuff in landfills,” said Dylan Holman, 10, one of the troop members.
Angel Whitt, the owner of the doll hospital, a Naperville mainstay for 34 years, is always looking for stuffed animals and dolls that are no longer wanted.
“It was super fun,” said Dylan of collecting the stuffed animals. “We got to decorate posters and fliers for everyone.”
Dylan’s mother, Tara, one of three leaders of the troop of 14 fourth-graders at the school, understands why this was not just about repurposing the stuffed animals but also meaningful for the girls to give back.
“A child might see that his furry friend is missing an eyeball and that furry friend really means something to that child,” Tara said. “And the girls are at an age where they are starting to outgrow their stuffed animals.”
This means rather than throwing them away, which often happens, they can be reused.
However, Whitt said many adults have treasured stuffed animals, too.
“It’s really neat to see how toys are loved,” Whitt said, “and how many men and women sleep with stuffed animals. It’s a normal thing.”
She sees the donations she receives, which come from across the country, as being like organ donors. The doll hospital is able to use all parts of the stuff animals except for the stuffing, because they haven’t found a way to clean it.
People also toss broken dolls, when they, too, have parts that can help make another doll whole again. The hospital repairs toys from 100-year-old antiques to new plastic dolls and stuffed animals.
While she is always looking for all types of stuffed animals and dolls, she in particular needs those from the 1980s and earlier.
“People think they are so old and dirty, but I want them,” she said.
And because each type of stuffed animal is usually only produced for a year, the parts and fur are challenging to find.
“The fur goes out of style like clothing,” Whitt said. “I had no idea how many types of fur there are. When an ear is missing or chewed, I try to match the fur as close as possible or it won’t be like the person remembers it.”
At the hospital she has organized the fur by style, type and age. Yet there is always something she doesn’t have. For instance, she recently had a Wishbone Dog, from the television series, where a dog had chewed off the stuffed dog’s eye. While the dog had lots of white fur, it was such a specific white fur that she had a hard time matching it so it the owner couldn’t tell that the dog had been repaired.
The journey project involves a series of badges and a service project. This particular one includes how energy is created and formed and some of the badges incorporated reusing and recycling.
“This was something to get the community involved,” Tara said.
And anyone else can do the same: a large plastic donation box sits on the front porch of the doll hospital waiting to be filled with stuffed animals and dolls looking to make a difference in someone else’s life.Tags: Girl Scouts, Good Cause