At various times since I retired, I have found myself searching for a new purpose, a new activity, or a new volunteer opportunity.
I talked to people and I searched the internet for the perfect fit and had no success. Twice, at least that I have been aware of, the opportunity was laid right at my feet through social media or phone call from someone I hadn’t heard from in years. The idea surfaced when I least expected it.
Once the world started opening up after quarantine, I found myself once again searching for the perfect volunteer opportunity.
I learned about a remarkable organization from a woman I know only virtually. It came about through a series of seemingly unrelated events. I want to share information about this volunteer experience in hopes that I become the catalyst for someone else to join this amazing group, just as this virtual acquaintance was the catalyst for me.
Throughout the last year and a half, I have attended many free virtual art classes and art club meetings through my local library. Participants are encouraged to share our work through Instagram. I opened an Instagram account just two years ago to promote my book, but suddenly found myself posting my dubious art and following budding artists like myself from an Instagram account called ConversationsAboutAutismBook. I’m sure this goes against all marketing rules but I did not want to start another account! One of the women I followed posted occasional photos of amigurumi dolls. I noticed a doll in a wheelchair and one with a cochlear implant. Her caption usually just said, “Another Feel Better Friend.” I couldn’t help finally asking her, through the comments, what these dolls were about and learned about the organization called Feel Better Friends. Through a series of Instagram comments, I learned how to sign up. I was “hooked.” (Pun intended.)
Volunteer dollmakers for Feel Better Friends crochet dolls to resemble children with various health issues. These dolls are provided to the children at no charge, although some families make a contribution to the nonprofit. Families apply through the organization and dolls are assigned to the volunteers. Since joining this group, I have made my one test doll and eight assigned dolls. Occasionally I have been rewarded with a photograph of a child holding the doll I made. What a heartwarming experience this is! You can see what I mean on Instagram @FBFdolls or on Facebook Feel Better Friends. So many children have been comforted through the seven years this organization has been serving sick kids!
The dolls I have made have had various surgical scars, g tubes, glucose monitors, AFO braces, headphones, EEG caps, etc. I even made a doll with two pupils on one eye. The support and ideas from other dollmakers make this far less challenging than it may sound. I even made a little dinosaur with a zipper scar from brain surgery to match his boy’s.