Sarah from Dolls And Daydreams® knows all about sewing for charity. Her campaign to sew dolls for children in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake was a tremendous success. We hope Sarah inspires you sew dolls and softies for children, and perhaps to participate in our Soft Toy Drive to Benefit Children in Foster Care.
Learn more about Sarah and her 200+ sewing patterns in her introduction, and check out Dolls And Daydreams® and Sarah’s Facebook page. Sarah also has a Dolly Donations blog with more details about how and where you can donate dolls and stuffies.
Hi, I’m Sarah, the indie pattern designer behind Dolls And Daydreams®. I’m often asked how I went from a fine art background to becoming a soft toy designer and, quite honestly, it was purely by accident.
Some of the 77 dollies I hand made for my Haiti Doll Drive in 2010.
My life took an unexpected turn in 2010. I had just had my daughter when the Haiti Earthquake hit, orphaning thousands of children and leaving them with nothing. I, like many others who watched the harrowing footage on television, was heartbroken. As I looked at my daughter clutching one of the handmade dolls I had made her I realized I could help. I strongly believe every child needs something that is theirs– a dolly to love and cuddle, to share their hopes and fears with and to keep them safe at night.
I set about starting a Dolly Donations doll drive for the children of Haiti using an easy free doll pattern I designed, and the response was amazing! We collected over 580 dolls for the children and have since continued to collect, make and send out thousands to children in need all over the world. Sewing dolls and softies for charity is very close to my heart.
Donating Dolls Abroad:
Overseas orphanages are nearly always looking for general supplies for the children but rarely get donations of dolls. I discovered when doing my first Haiti doll drive that often the dolls we made were the first really personal gifts these children had ever received.
Unfortunately, finding an organization to partner with isn’t as easy as you might think. Some charities do not accept handmade items. Others do, but don’t have the resources to ship the dolls into the country through customs. Reach out to your organization of choice before you begin your doll drive.
Terry and her sewing friends made and distributed 195 dolls
to children in need on their mission trip to the Dominican Republic.
Mission trips organized by churches are a wonderful way to get dolls in to the hands of children in need. Why not organize a sewing circle with your church friends and see how many you can make?
Verity made 74 dolls using my Easy Girl Doll Pattern and distributed them to little girls in Maasailand, Kenya.
If you can’t find an organization that can take the dolls for you why not set up a Dolly Drive yourself? It doesn’t have to be big. An extra suitcase filled with dolls goes a long way! If you will be going or know of someone visiting an orphanage abroad, taking the dolls yourself in your luggage means that you can personally see that the dolls get into the hands of the children.
Here are two organizations I love. I have ongoing Doll Drives for these organizations on my blog:
The Uthando Project: Dolls for South Africa:
The Uthando Project collects dolls for the children of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. So far 40,000 dolls have been sent over a 10 year period. Simply amazing! I have summarized what is needed and where to send your dolls on my Dolly Donations Blog.
Monica shipping dolls to Haiti.
Holy Family Cluster: Dolls For Haiti:
Haiti will always be close to my heart and thanks to Monica with Holy Family Cluster we can still send dolls out there. Thanks to their “Medical Mission Trips” to Anse Rouge, Haiti each year they have an ongoing doll drive to handout dolls and provide medical treatment to families and children in need. Learn more here.
You can also look closer to home to help little ones in need. It’s amazing how many places there are to help on your own doorsteps. Children and women’s shelters, family homeless shelters and, of course, children’s Hospitals are a great place for donations. The wonderful “Sewing Library” Doll Drive I took part in distributed 1234 dolls and softies to children’s wards throughout Australia in 2013! Amazing!
Karin’s dolls using my Little Sister pattern have booboos and bandages
so their new best friends can look after them!
Cuties for Cure Sewing Pattern, with $2 of every sale going towards Cancer research.
After receiving lots of requests from parents I designed my Cuties For Cure doll pattern, a set of beautiful dollies that come with wigs, hats and accessories to help children come to terms with hair loss due to cancer treatment. Of course you don’t have to collect dolls for a doll drive; these cuties have been great for fundraisers and charity auctions as well.
Kate made some fun foxes for her local children’s hospital ward; they were a real hit with both boy and girls.
Often when you donate locally there are fewer restrictions on the type of toy you can donate; you don’t have to make dolls, and hospitals and child care charities are often open to softies. Doctor’s visits and treatment centers are less scary with a best buddy at your side!
However there are usually some restrictions with fabric dolls in a hospital setting. Please always check with the hospital first before setting up a doll drive; the type of ward can dictate whether or not they can accept handmade dolls due to risk of infection.
When we are least expecting it, natural disasters– forest fires, tornadoes, tsunami, earthquakes– can destroy homes, leaving families with nothing. Children find this incredibly difficult to understand and deal with. If there is a crisis that hits close to home many people have drop-off locations where you can take dolls to leave with a charity worker. They will get them into the hands of children in need.
Pictured: When the tornado hit Joplin, USA, Philla dropped off 35 dolls. Children were overjoyed as they had lost all of their toys and dolls along with their homes.
Online Doll Drives:
Why not donate to the Sew Mama Sew Soft Toy Drive to Benefit Children in Foster Care?! Just think… One softie means one happy, smiling child with a new best friend!
Another great one to start thinking about is Operation Christmas Child. Scale down your favorite pattern to fit into one of their shoe boxes. They collect and send shoe boxes round the world for Christmas each year and have lots of different drop off locations available.
- Some organizations will only accept a specific range of skin tones and hair colors.
- Some will only take dolls, not toy animals.
- Some will not accept handmade items.
- Shipping or packing a large amount vacuum pack or space bag those babies, it’s amazing how the dolls will shrink down!
- I encourage embroidered or painted faces as this makes them safe for all age groups; small removable parts like buttons for eyes are not recommended for children under the age of three due to chocking hazards.
- Boys love dolls too! You could even make superheroes and footballers! If you don’t want to send a doll, what about a dino?!
Bianca changed the skin tone on my Snow White Pattern to make this little cutie!
I would like to thank all of the amazing, giving people around the world who have sent a doll (or plan to) to a child in need!