They're made of muslin, sewn together with yarn for hair and dressed in denim and cotton, but for Maureen Ennis, the dolls she handcrafts for sick and traumatized children, they're made of much more.
Ennis, who opened the first New York State chapter of "The Giving Doll" right in her Ronkonkoma home says she didn't always know how to sew. Her mother taught her about 10 years ago and, in fact, helped her through the beginning phases of launching the new chapter.
The Giving Doll is a non-profit organization based in Ohio that donates handmade dolls to children all over the world in a mission to, as Ennis puts it, "give a child faith, hope, comfort, joy and love.”
The dolls are created by Ennis and two separate groups of crafters; one that assembles in the living room of her home and the other that meets at the Knights of Columbus in Ronkonkoma. The dolls are created from donated materials and are doled out completely free of charge. The organization makes both male and female dolls; the male dolls come with a small matchbox car tucked into the cuff of his pants. Each doll is given a name by The Giving Doll, unless there's a special request.
So far, The New York Giving Doll has donated 58 of these squeezable companions to children both on Long Island and overseas, including a donation to the children of Sachem East Football Coach Mark Wojciechowski, whose Farmingville home was .
“When I heard about it on the news that morning, I thought 'how am I going to get in touch with them,' Ennis reflects. "A guidance counselor got me in touch with them and we were able to give them two dolls. I’m hearing that they love them and I like to believe that.”
For Ennis, cheering children up is something she probably has a lot of experience with. She has four of her own. They mostly suffered scrapes and bruises, unlike the children she encounters or hears about through The Giving Doll.
"I’ve come across so much illness," she says. "I have a very special place in my heart for sick kids. Fortunately I have four kids and none of them are sick. I’m working with Stony Brook Pediatric Cancer Center, and I see what’s there.”
In the near future Ennis is hoping to communicate with local women's shelters and the police department who might know of children in need of a smile and a friend.
"I find it very rewarding," Ennis says of her work. "I really enjoy what I do, but we don’t do it for that. We do it to bring happiness to these kids because there’s so many who need it.”
As for Ennis' favorite doll? Her name is Sophia. It was her first one, and it took her two weeks to make her. Sophia stays in the car as a show-piece when she travels around.
If you're interested in donating materials or money to The New York Giving Dolls, you'll have to make that donation to the organization's headquarters in Ohio. Visit The Giving Doll's website for details.