Michelle and I had the wonderful opportunity this past week to have a quick Q&A with the founder of Broken Dolls Healing Hearts, Debbie Hutton. Debbie is an incredible woman; I am sure you will be touched by her story.
Q: What is Broken Dolls Healing Hearts?
A: Broken Dolls Healing Hearts is an ongoing project that is twofold. It started out with the intention of giving children in foster care, and those less fortunate, something to hold onto. We wanted to give them something to hug, something that is their very own, no matter where they move, where they go, no matter what difficulties, and burdens they had to face, they would have a friend with them. Some dolls would be new, some were broken, and fixed to look new, but each care package is assembled with love. This is the first part of Broken Dolls Healing Hearts.
The second part, and the one closest to my heart is our medical care packages. These packages are done up for children who are terminally ill, or children who have or are suffering from severe medical or emotional trauma. These care packages are geared toward the individual child, we take into consideration age, size, favourite colour, favourite tv show/character, favourite animal, hobbies, or things they like to do. The care packages are done with one purpose; in a world full of confusion, pain, and uncertainty; if, for only one minute, we can put a smile on the face of a child and help them forget the world around them, we have done something special.
Q: What motivated you to start Broken Dolls Healing Hearts?
A: Growing up in a Children’s Aid Society and being made a crown ward gave me firsthand experience into the life of a foster child. Years later, when I became a foster parent, I realized that after all the time that had past, the feelings of foster children today were no different then they were 30 years ago. The pain and loneliness felt, stabs deep within the heart of each and every child in care. The fear going into a new home consumes every breath, and every breath is harder than the last one, but it’s the feeling of being unloved, unwanted, and unworthy that remains with you for a lifetime.
During that time of fostering, I received my first baby, a boy born 13 weeks early, drug addicted, with heart failure, and seizures, requiring blood transfusions and tube feeds, spending 3 months in the NICU. A year later, this baby’s mother was expecting another child. This child, a girl, suffered a stroke in utero, then again after birth, and a third time brought on from drug withdrawal. When this little girl was 2, she was diagnosed with a form of Cerebral Palsy. These two babies introduced me to a whole new a world, a world of hospitals, and child trauma.
When my little girl was 4, I would take her to the hospital for Botox injections in her legs, and to have her legs re-casted. Once she would receive these Botox injections it would take 4 hours for her to regain the use of her legs. During one of these hospital visits, there was another little girl crying across the large post-op room – you could tell this little girl was scared and in pain. My little one asked to be put down on the floor, the nurse and I helped her down. Once on the floor, my little girl turned to me and asked for her teddy bear. I watched as my little girl dragged herself across the room to where the other little girl was crying. My little girl looked at her and said, “It’s going to be okay; it only hurts for a little while. You can have Sammy; he can go with you in there.” The little girl reached down, took the teddy bear, and thanked my little girl, and stopped crying. That was 4 years ago – a year later, Broken Dolls Healing Hearts was born.
Q: How long has Broken Dolls Healing Hearts been operating, and how many children have you been able to help?
A: For the past three years, I have put my heart and soul into Broken Dolls Healing Hearts. The first care package I was involved in was for a little 6 year-old girl who had DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas). When she received her care package, she had the biggest smile ever. When she passed away, I cried for a week, but it made me more determined. Every year, we do between 70-100 care packages for foster care children and less fortunate children. Our medical nominations are posted on our Facebook page, and run for a month; this gives people who are making special items for a child to do so. Some months, we do 3 medical care packages, some months one– it just depends how many nominations we receive.
Q: What has been your most memorable experience with Broken Dolls Healing Hearts?
A: This December, we had 3 medical care packages on the go, one for a little girl with flaming red hair– she was so cute. While I was looking for a doll for her, I came across the most perfect match! Unfortunately, the doll was 100.00 USD and located in the UK, but it was so perfect. As we do not accept cash donations, I didn’t have a reserve fund to fall back on, so I decided I would pay for this doll myself. I sent a letter to the founder who runs the company; I told her what I was doing and sent her a picture of the little girl. When I sent the message I was hoping for a small discount at most, but this amazing lady, Frances Weeks Cain founder of A Girl For All Time sent me the doll as a donation to the little girl. OMG, it brought tears to my eyes, what a beautiful thing to do. How do you put a price on that? With a lady I had never met, across oceans and borders, we made a difference in the life of a child. What an amazing thing to accomplish.
Q: If any of our readers know of a child they would like to nominate for this program, how do they go about doing so?
A: Anyone can nominate a child for a care package; it could be a parent, a family member, someone in the community. Nominating someone is as easy as going to our Broken Dolls Healing Hearts Facebook page, and sending us a message.
Q: We love the concept of your program, what can we, and others like us do to help?
A: We love to hear from people. We ask people to like our page, check out what we are doing, share our page with family and friends, and if you feel motivated to donate please do so. Most of our dolls are 15-18 inches so we love getting homemade doll clothes, doll shoes, doll quilts/blankets, new dolls, old dolls, and doll wigs. For our medical packages we look for donations of quilts/blankets for both girls and boys, kids’ pillowcases, colouring books, crayons, knitted hats, and mitts for children ages 2-10. Besides donations, we always ask for lots of prayers for the children and their families.
Debbie, your story is truly inspiring, and we are so impressed with all that you have accomplished in just a few short years. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions.
We have been truly inspired by Debbie’s journey with Broken Dolls Healing Hearts. If you too are inspired by Debbie’s story and would like to donate, or lend a helping hand, follow Broken Dolls Healing Hearts on Facebook. If you have any items you would like to donate, they can be mailed to:
Broken Dolls Healing Hearts Attention Debbie Hutton 42 Strathcona Ave Thunder Bay, Ontario P7A-1R9 CANADA
At this time, Broken Dolls Healing Hearts does not accept monetary donations.
~Meg & Michelle~