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Dolls raise awareness and funds for cancer research

Donelda Allen continues to honour her friend's memory creating dolls for raising awareness, and now fundraising, for breast cancer.

WILKIE— Twenty-five years after losing her best friend to cancer, Donelda Allen continues to honour her friend’s memory. While her FLOH (For Love of Harmien) projects to raise awareness and funds for research have varied over the years, today Allen is focusing on doll-making and participation in CIBC’s Run for the Cure.

Allen uses the dolls to raise awareness and they have been displayed in many CIBC branches over the years. Some – such as the two currently in the Wilkie CIBC – have been donated for silent auction to help raise funds as well.

As part of the awareness part of Allen’s campaign, individuals are encouraged to name a doll after someone who has lost their mother, grandmother or other family member to cancer. As well as the name going on a card displayed with each doll, Allen adds the age at which the person lost their family member.

For example, currently on display at Country Ford in Wilkie is the first pregnant doll Allen has made. The unborn baby is named Ryan Jordan for a young boy whose aunt died of cancer before he was born, in utero.

In Saskatoon, a 17-year-old young man heard about the dolls and came into a CIBC branch where dolls were on display, specifically to name one after his sister.

When Allen’s dolls were on display in Winnipeg, a man who wanted to name a doll for his daughter asked if his daughter could choose the doll herself. “Certainly,” was the reply. He then flew his daughter from Toronto to make her choice.

There is no charge to name a doll. Allen said she is “touched by people wanting to share their loss … and this is a way they can do it comfortably.”

By adding the age of the person when their mother or other relative passed away, Allen hopes to help people understand the impact of cancer, not only on patients but also families. Her hope is a cure is found “before they [the young family members] become mothers or parents themselves.”

While she has focused on women and breast cancer in the past, she now includes all cancers and genders. Her first boy doll was named for a three-day-old boy who lost his grandfather to breast cancer.

As at press deadlines, there were still a couple of dolls in Wilkie awaiting names. One with a beaded dress and magnificent hat can be viewed at the Delta Co-op grocery store while another is at the town office.

Despite taking a few years off, Allen has made 114 dolls in the past and is “back at it now” with plans to add another 20 in the next year.

Allen’s dolls are indeed a sight to behold, and it is no wonder when one looks at the details and hears the number of hours put into each creation.

Hair, for example, comes straight and wrapped in cellophane. She styles it appropriately for the planned dress and said it takes eight to 15 hours for most hair to set the way she wants. Ringlets take six weeks of repeated setting and drying before she is done.

Some dresses have meant sewing on as many as 15,000 sequins or 10,000 beads. A Princess Diana wedding doll took 300 hours to complete. As everything is made to scale, the doll’s train is as long as a banquet table.

Allen heard about the Wilkie branch’s participation in Run for the Cure from her sister, Cheryl Keller, who lives in Wilkie. (Allen herself was born a Kreuger and grew up in Macklin where she married David Dawson, now deceased.)

She said, “What the girls are doing here touched my heart,” and hence she is returning to Wilkie to take part in the walk Oct. 1. “This is the first time I’ve known a run to be in support of a current warrior,” she said. She is happy to be a member of Team CIBC Wilkie.

Allen wears a replica costume of one of her dolls when she walks.

Allen’s late friend, Harmien, is the one who taught her to crochet, and the doll catalogue she has used to purchase kits from is by Paradise Publications.

Many silent action items are on display at CIBC in Wilkie, but there are also more items available online. You can participate and bid on items by joining the Facebook page, CIBC Auction to Help Carolyn Eremko.

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