Sandy Cambron and her husband have given about 200 baby dolls over the years to patients battling dementia
Sandy Cambron was looking to spread a little love at a Kentucky nursing home on Valentine’s Day. So, she went bearing an extra special gift: baby dolls.
Cambron lost her mother-in-law, Pearl, in 2008 to Alzheimer’s disease and it was a little baby doll that helped the elderly woman through her final days — Pearl was even buried with the doll. In the years since, Cambron and her husband Wayne have been delivering toy dolls to dementia and Alzheimer’s patients at nursing homes in the Louisville area, with hopes that the dolls would bring joy to the patients, just like the toy did for Pearl.
“Watching them hug the dolls and say, ‘thank you, thank you,’ it just brings me so much joy,” Cambron, 69, tells PEOPLE. “I’m just hoping it makes a difference, to comfort them in their last days. It makes me happy to see them, to know that I can’t make them well, but I could just try to comfort them.”
In their most recent trip, Cambron, Wayne, and one of Cambron’s co-workers, Shannon Blair, headed to the Park Terrace Health Campus, where they presented the women with baby dolls and the men with stuffed puppies.
“Two of the guys took the puppies, but then they were asking somebody else if they could hold their babies,” Cambron says. “So I ended up leaving some of the men with a puppy and a baby!”
Photos from the event showed several patients holding the baby dolls with smiles, and hugging the toys. Blair first shared the story with Love What Matters.
“Most of them were just so thankful and so excited to have a baby. Some of them cried! We had one lady that said, ‘Honey, I can’t take care of no baby,’ and I told her, ‘You don’t have to do anything, she doesn’t cry. She’s just here to keep you company. She’s going to be your little buddy,’ ” Cambron recalls.
“By time we left the nursing home, there were several of them in a circle all in wheelchairs and you could tell they were having a little baby party, comparing each other’s babies. It even gets some of them out of their rooms now. It’s just unbelievable.”
Cambron says she and her husband have given out at least 200 dolls over the years, and they’ve decided to call the project “Pearl’s Memory Babies.” The family has set up a GoFundMe page to purchase the dolls and stuffed puppies, and Cambron says she hopes to deliver the babies at more than just nursing homes.
“If it grows really big, we’ll go anywhere. Well go anywhere to reach those patients,” she tells PEOPLE. “We decided to do this in memory of [Pearl]. Her baby was her little buddy and her companion, it gave her lots of comfort. We knew how much it meant to her and we realized what she was going through.
“We saw the other Alzheimer’s patients and they just became so precious to use, we want to try to make their last days as pleasant as we can.”