Bella Fricker has given 38 American Girl dolls to young kids with cancer after losing a friend to neuroblastoma
Bella Fricker was just 5 years old when she met a little girl with neuroblastoma who eventually died from the condition. Despite her young age, Bella knew the significance of the girl’s illness — and vowed to spread joy to children going through the same thing.
Now, 11, Bella and her mother, 42-year-old Valerie Fricker, travel the region delivering bald American Girl dolls to kids with cancer. Valerie says it was all Bella’s idea, as the young girl had always loved the specialty dolls.
“Around 9 years old, Bella saw in a catalogue in the mail that [American Girl] made dolls without hair. She said, ‘Hey, mommy! I want to buy some of these and give them to little girls. I want to raise money,’ ” Valerie recalls. “A month or two later she had made a bunch of plastic bracelets and she said, ‘Mom, I made these! Can you sell these to your friends on Facebook? We can raise money and buy the dolls!’ “
In October 2016, Valerie marketed the bracelets on Facebook, telling her friends and family about Bella’s plan to buy the dolls — which cost about $115 each. Soon, the pair raised over $300 and were able to buy three American Girl dolls. In December 2016, Bella gave her first doll to a child at a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospital.
“It was a moment you can’t describe. The experience was just amazing,” Valerie tells PEOPLE. “It was a great experience for Bella and the little girl. It felt really good to watch her do that. It fills your heart to see her do something so sweet, and kind, and selfless for another child that is unfortunately going through something terrible such as chemotherapy and treatments and all the stuff these kids go through.”
So far, Bella has given 38 dolls to children — surprising the kids most of the time, Valerie says. She has visited Texas Children’s Hospital, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Egleston and more.
“I really love it. I love seeing smiles on their faces,” Bella tells PEOPLE. “I really wanted to help out and do something to make kids feel better that are sick. My favorite part is giving the dolls, just to see that they’re happy!”
Now, Bella’s good deed has led the family to launch a nonprofit organization, Peace Love Bracelets Foundation Inc., through which they deliver the dolls. Although the family still makes and sells bracelets, they primarily rely on fundraising to cover the cost of the dolls.
“I think her favorite part is meeting the children and handing them the doll and talking to them. Bella’s pretty shy, so to see her come out to do stuff like that, it’s great,” Valerie says. “She used to be a really shy child. I couldn’t get her to talk to anybody. From this, she’s done speeches! She’s grown miraculously in many ways through this process.”
Bella has managed to keep her good deed going even through her own illness. She was diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes in August 2017.
“With that, she also started giving diabetes care kits that American Girl makes as well,” Valerie tells PEOPLE.
“She is a warrior in her own right. She gives herself shots, she tests her sugar, she counts her carbs and I couldn’t be prouder of her. She isn’t going to let anything stop her just because she’s a diabetic.”
Despite her illness, Bella says she’s determined to keep her good deed going for the foreseeable future.
“I really want to do it for a couple more years!” the little girl tells PEOPLE.