Sarah Allen has been sewing since she was four years old. When she was laid off from her corporate job, she turned to sewing to fill her days in Raymond. In January, one of her friends from the Auburn Nile Club, a sewing group that is part of the Daughters of the Nile Club, the women’s organization associated with the Kora Temple in Lewiston, bet Allen that she couldn’t sew 100 surgery dolls before she had to go back to work.
“It was a challenge. I took her on,” said Allen. She has been sewing ever since, reaching her goal of creating 100 dolls and she hasn’t stopped there.
The “babies” are given to children in the Shriners Children’s Hospital in Boston, Mass. where they treat children up to 21 years of age for orthopedic issues, burn care, and cleft lip and palate. The children and their families do not pay for the services. The dolls are decorated by the children, which is why they have no faces, or hair. The dolls represent all different skin tones and the hospital recently had a need for “brown babies” which Allen was able to pack up and ship from her stash in order to fill the need. Each one is unique and can be drawn on by the medical team to show where scars will be and how they will be bandaged, according to Allen.
It is also used by the children to point out where they hurt. “It’s such a teaching experience for children,” Allen said. “It’s a wealth of information for the doctors and the child to use. It’s interactive with the child, doctor and nursing staff,” Allen said.
Each doll has a johnny to wear and sometimes Allen makes pajamas to match the johnnies.
Each doll takes on average an hour and a half to complete, though she now has a system where she works on many dolls at a time. Then she will sit for one evening and whip stitch the legs, she said. “They all become special to me,” she said. She has also made dolls for a specific child she knows would be heading to Boston. “That one was especially special.”
The Nile Club doesn’t just make the dolls, but they also make pillowcases, pajamas, johnnies and more, all made with cotton fabric which doesn’t stick to burns as easily. The fabric comes from donations or the Auburn Nile Club purchases the fabric with money from fundraisers they participate in like craft fairs, where they sell items they knitted and crocheted.
“We work our tails off,” Allen said with a laugh. She has also made over 100 chemotherapy hats. At Christmas time she and the other Auburn Nile Club knit over 100 pairs of mittens. Allen knits a pair for each of the children on the Raymond Village Community Church tree at Christmas time.
Allen has a family connection to the Shriners Hospitals because her uncle was a patient there. Her father and both of her grandfathers were Shriners. “It’s something I’ve been fascinated with. It’s always been in my family. I was natural to follow into the service,” she said. Allen buys fabric for her dolls and johnnies, but it can be expensive for the fabric that doesn’t get paid for by the organization. She is willing to take any fabric people have that they are not using.
She can be reached at email@example.com. She is looking for a part time job, but said this is her real work.
The dolls will be delivered within the next few months by the Daughters of the Nile, Arok Temple #94 in Auburn. Allen hopes to go if she can.
Anyone with a connection to the Masons, Shriners, Rainbow Girls, Eastern Star or DeMolay or has been a patient of the Shriners Hospital can become a member of the Arok Temple.