Jude Ward has undergone 14 separate surgeries in the short three years he has spent on this planet. Each time he goes in to Portland for treatment, he takes his Happy Smiles doll with him.
“He’s the poster boy for the program,” founder Trenee Zweigle announced proudly.
Zweigle conceived of the Happy Smiles for Kids dolls years ago while working as a nurse at Lamorinda University Medical Center in California, assigned to the children’s oncology ward. She first created the Hospital Buddy and Chemo Buddy dolls, which she gifted to the children she encountered, suffering from tumors and regular surgeries.
What the kids suffered from most, however, was loneliness. “The kids just want us to sit there and hold their hands,” Zweigle explained.
Since she and the other nurses could not abandon their other duties to stay by the kids’ sides, Zweigle conceived of the Happy Smiles model for comfort and companionship. Zweigle mentioned incorporating the dolls into treatment, with her and other nurses saying things like, “Let me poke your buddy first and you’ll see it’s not so bad.”
“I just wanted [the dolls] to have a big, giant, happy smile to cheer them up,” said Zweigle. She and like-minded nurses now work to sew dolls out of lace, ruffles, and other cotton materials. Each even comes with its own hospital gown. Though they initially paid for the materials out of pocket, the demand soon exceeded their meager budget.
Zweigle now works with local teen groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters. The teen group Civil Air Patrol in Eugene helps her in handing out the dolls, which she donates to different hospitals monthly. Zweigle is currently trying to earn enough money to create a large order as well as to outreach to other states. She is seeking volunteers as well as donations of cutesy cotton materials, ruffles, lace, and ribbons.
By Ariadne Wolf