WILLIAMSON — “I can just imagine seeing the eyes of a child light up or the smile on their face when they’re given a doll that was designed by another child that has uplifting messages written on it to help them get through whatever hardships they’re facing,” said April Toler-Mullins, a registered nurse with Williamson Memorial Hospital that has embarked on a personal campaign to make a difference in the lives of children who find themselves in challenging circumstances.
Mullins had read about an organization called “Happy Dolls” in a parenting magazine, and was so touched by the story of good deeds that she vowed to participate. With the 1st birthday of her daughter approaching, the nurse with a caring heart decided the time was right to put her plan into action and was thrilled with the results.
“Happy Dolls” was inspired by a hospital-based, art therapy project in Japan, and was founded by Masako Takahashi. The organization connects children around the world using dolls made by others as traveling ambassadors with messages of hope. Each doll is a one-of-a-kind, kid-powered envoy with a simple mission, that being to make children smile when they’re experiencing a difficult time in their lives.
To date, over 1,000 children have collaborated in New York, N. Carolina, Haiti, Japan, India, Honduras, Singapore, Vietnam, Uganda, and now – West Virginia – sending hope and comfort through their traveling Happy Dolls. The organization works with children from all backgrounds, most being in a vulnerable state who desperately need to hear words of comfort or to know that someone cares. The group provides simple doll making kits to create a unique, plush friend to send to child that will speak the universal symbol of love, compassion and encouragement that reach across borders, cultures and languages.
According to Toler, it’s a very simple process to order dolls from the organization. You send them a donation (minimum of $1.00) and they will mail you a blank canvas doll with markers for the children to use to decorate and color them, and to write messages of love and hope. You will also receive a postage-paid box to use to return the doll, which is then placed in the arms of a child either within the U.S. or in another country that are in need. “Happy Dolls” is a non-profit organization that works strictly with volunteers and donations. After your dolls are decorated and returned to the group, it is tagged with an identification number that you can track via their website to see where your doll was shipped.
“I recently emailed the founder of Happy Dolls and told her my daughter’s first birthday was coming up and that I wanted to get 15 dolls for the kids that were going to be there to decorate,” explained Mullins. “The twist on my request, however, was whether or not I could take them to the Tug Valley Recovery Shelter (TVRC) here in Williamson for the children who stay there with their mothers because of a domestic violence situation, instead of returning them to the organization.”
“The founder was so excited about the idea that she not only sent me 15 blank dolls for my party, she sent an additional 15 that had been decorated by children all over the world!”
Mullins remarked that she was moved to tears when she opened the box, and experienced an immense feeling of joy as she read the sweet messages that included sayings such as “never give up” and “always smile”.
“I am so happy that I decided to become a part of this organization and I encourage anyone interested to do the same,” Mullins said. “Visit the website happydoll.org and read all about it and I’m sure you heart will be just as touched by the story as I was.”
Mullins recently delivered the dolls to the TVRC, and said that employees there were excited to be able to pass them on to children who enter their doors that are in need of a reason to smile.
“There is nothing more precious in this world than a child,” stated Mullins with tears in her eyes. “If these dolls we decorated can bring a happiness to one child that is facing adversities, suffering the loss of a loved one, fighting an illness of their own or that live in a financial state that doesn’t leave anything left to buy toys, then our goal has been accomplished…and that is truly the only thank you I will ever need.”