Ocala girl donates special dolls to children at Shands
Published: Friday, May 10, 2013 at 5:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 10, 2013 at 5:37 p.m.
Although she had only $50 in her savings account, 10-year-old Serenah Rollins dug deep and used $30 to help purchase 21 True Hope Dolls to give to children losing their hair from cancer treatments. The dolls are bald and feature girls and boys from brands Bratz and Moxie Girlz. Last Saturday, she donated the dolls to a pediatric unit at Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
"I wish I could buy as much as I could to give to the kids with cancer so they don't feel left out," she said.
Amy Wegner, certified child life specialist at Shands, said she was thrilled to hear they would be getting a supply donation from a child. She said many children have donated items during a toy drive or fundraiser through an organization led by adults, Girl Scout troop or school club, but rarely does a child initiate the idea on their own.
"It's pretty unique and amazing for a 10-year-old — we don't get a lot of kids who do that," Wegner said. "You never know how these things will affect children later on. She may be a person who will be a helper all of her life or help other children when she grows up. And with these kids here, I can tell them there was girl who donated this doll just for them, and they will be very appreciative."
Wegner said a large donation of True Hope Dolls was rare, and only at their outpatient clinic have they received a few small donations at a time. She said the dolls have not been given out yet, as they usually distribute them during an early stage of a diagnosis.
Wegner said the dolls, as well as other educational tools, help families deal with cancer treatments. She said during the most stressful time of their lives, it's the little things that help break up the stress and the anxiety, and it helps parents to see kids playing and being more like themselves.
"Our goal is to normalize the hospital environment as much as we can. We teach effective coping through play and education, and the True Hope Dolls are very useful for us to use as a therapeutic tool to cope with treatment. As a tool, we use it to empower and show that even though it is a difficult thing to go through, there are positive things to focus on," she said.
Serenah said she first saw the dolls a few days before Easter while shopping with her mother, Renee, at Toys R Us — and it has been all she can think about since.
"I just don't want (children) to feel left out, and so they have something that shows they don't have to feel bad about themselves," she said.
Even though she wants one, and loves the bracelet and several outfits that come with each doll, Serenah has yet to keep a doll for herself.
Johnathan Rollins said his daughter was just beginning to dip her toes in the ‘I want' stage and he was shocked when she told him she wanted to buy the dolls for other children. He said she didn't know of any sick children personally, she just wanted to help anyone and everyone.
"I was really proud of her and now I tell everybody. It was such a tear-jerker to call Shands and hear the stories of the children that would need these dolls. They go through so much, and it's a sad thing to see a kid hooked up to a machine while losing their hair," he said.
He said the cost of all the dolls was $210, at around $10 apiece as some had gone on clearance to make room for different dolls introduced each season. To raise the rest of the $180 not available in Serenah's bank account, her sisters Haylee, 7, Kiersten, 14, and Kahlee, 16, made items such as duct tape wallets, pericord bracelets and "barrel buddies," which are air soft rifle gun barrels made out of decorated tennis balls, which they sold at a fundraising air soft game at Wayne's World of Sports.
Johnathan Rollins said if they raise enough money, their next donations will be to hospitals in Orlando and Tampa, and they hope to send some to medical facilities in different states. He said they want to create such a large interest in the dolls that they could donate large amounts once month, or as Serenah said, "for forever."
A Facebook page was created called Serenah's Wish for Hope so others can send checks or dolls, or post photos of dolls they have donated to other hospitals, to inspire others to do the same. Her sister's Facebook page, Kahlee's Krafts, will continue to sell items to fund doll purchases. People also can contact Johnathan Rollins by calling 857-0448.
Wegner said while the pediatric unit at Shands doesn't need any more True Hope Dolls at this time, people can call to receive a specific donation list. She said donors also should schedule a time to make a donation as staffers need to be available to accept donations and prepare room to store them. To learn more, visit http://giving.ufandshands.org/make-a-gift/shands-hospital-for-children-at-uf/donate-items/
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