Residents of Parker Jewish Institute, New Hyde Park, NY, recently benefited from the generosity of a resident’s family.

During a February visit, Cassandra Ottaviano and her son gave a doll to Cassandra’s mother, Margaret “Marge” Karris, a resident of the memory care unit. After returning from lunch, however, they found another resident cradling the doll.

“I didn’t have the heart to take that doll away and give it back to my mom,” Cassandra said. That’s when she got the idea to collect new dolls for the unit’s residents, posting appeals for donations via several local Facebook pages and asking fellow parishioners of her church to contribute.

The effort resulted in almost 50 dolls, which Cassandra took to Parker on Feb. 23. With staff approval, she asked several residents whether they would like one.

“Their reactions brought tears of joy to my eyes,” Cassandra said. “Several residents began cradling the life-sized dolls, talking to them and making cooing sounds, as if they were their own babies. We saw a lot of smiles that day.”

“We commend efforts like Cassandra’s. Therapy dolls are a helpful, non-pharmaceutical way to calm and soothe seniors with Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” Parker President and CEO Michael N. Rosenblut said. “Gifting a soft, life-sized baby doll to some residents in our memory care unit can bring them back to a time in their lives when they had a sense of purpose, joy and comfort.”

After giving out dolls at Parker, Cassandra, her husband, Phil, and her brother distributed the rest at additional facilities.

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