Charity launches new Down Syndrome doll to help children

Billy’s Dolls of Comfort say that while the dolls are “a comfort not a cure”, they claim they have been proven to help people with a range of conditions, particularly those with Alzheimer’s.

Winnie O’Neill founded the organisation about 18 months ago and she explained how the toys make a big difference.Winnie, who lives in Carbury in Co Kildare, told Independent.ie: “My daughter works in a nursing home and she was telling me that many of the Alzheimer’s patients like dolls, I was intrigued by this so I decided to collect some to give to nursing homes.

“When I was first asking people to donate they thought I was mad, they’d never heard of doll therapy.  I brought any that needed restoration to a knitting lady who gives them fabulous makeovers and any, that aren’t suitable for elderly patients, are given in the Christmas shoebox appeal to children in places like Haiti and the Philippines.”It’s all about the kids and older people.

“It was only after I gave it that I found out it’s not just people with Alzheimer’s the dolls help but they provide comfort to all sorts of people.”We also deliver dolls to autistic children in schools.

“We’ve been told that these dolls can really help calm older people who might be distressed, we got a call a few weeks ago about a woman with Alzheimer’s who was crying over the death of her son and when we gave her a boy doll that was wrapped up, seemingly that did the trick and helped her.”Billy’s Dolls of Comforts has grown so much over the past year and a half that Winne now runs it with business partner Jennifer Brady and three volunteers.

This week Winnie (54) provided her first doll that is designed to resemble someone with Down Syndrome, which she has named Noah.She said: “The reason we got the Noah doll was because we got a call from a nursing home in Athlone  saying there was a client there who was very upset. When we got there it turned out her son has Down Syndrome and she was missing him but we didn’t have a doll with Down Syndrome so we went looking for one online and we tracked some down to a company in Germany.

“We ordered them and they took a few weeks to come and there was a lot of delays and we couldn’t understand why but we’re going to be giving it to the woman now.”If she bonds with Noah and wants to keep him we’ll have to charge, it’ll be between €80 and €100. We’ve never charged before, everything we do is completely free but this doll is specialised and it cost us to order him.

“If other people want one we can get them for them too, it’s no problem.”I’ve never seen a Down Syndrome doll before but we’ve been led to believe that children with Down Syndrome gel quicker with them than with other dolls.”

They receive no funding and rely on donations and Winnie says that the organisation is “getting bigger than her” and she would love to receive sponsorship.For more information or to find out about donate please visit their Facebook page

Beloved family cat Freddie returned to Auckland family 18 months after going missing

Video will play inPlay nowDon’t auto playNever auto playAn Auckland family are overjoyed their beloved family cat Freddie has been returned to them after going missing 18 months ago. Lisa Baillie said Freddie spent the last two weeks hanging around the Animates store at St Lukes, so staff took him to the nearby vet to have his microchip scanned. “I just got a call out of the blue from Pet Doctors. ‘Did you have a cat called Freddie? We’ve found him,'” Baillie said. “I think I screamed. I was at work, I just yelled when they said we’ve got a cat called Freddie, I was just in shock.” Jack Baillie cuddles Freddie the cat, who has returned to his family 18 months after going missing. Photo / Supplied Freddie had disappeared “basically off the face of the earth” from their home in September 2015. Baillie was unsure why he went missing but thought it might have been because the house was on the market and Freddie had been disrupted by all the open homes and strangers coming through the house. She reported him missing and put out fliers in her neighbourhood, but five weeks later had to move to a different area. “The kids chose him and he was only two, they were just devastated,” she said. Though the kids had talked about Freddie every week since he went missing, Baillie had given up hope on ever seeing him again, which was why the call from the vet last Thursday was such a surprise. Continued below.Related ContentVideoCat returns home after 18 months Loyalty low in 30pc of bank customers My car accident left me terrified of driving – so I asked racing legend Greg Murphy for help Freddie has made himself at home in his family’s new house. Photo / Supplied Freddie appeared to be well-fed and in good health, so Baillie suspects someone may have taken him in and looked after him, though questions why they did not take him in to see if he had a microchip. She picked up her daughter, Sophie, from school and got Freddie from the vet, then surprised her son, Jack, when he came home for the day. A video Baillie took shows Jack, 8, coming home from school and discovering Freddie asleep on a bed in the house, then gently wrapping his arms around the cat and cuddling him. “Jack, you can see in his face, he just couldn’t believe it. They’ve just been doting over him ever since.” Baillie said Freddie seemed happy as ever, “totally affectionate”, and appeared to be enjoying spending time around the kids. Freddie is happy to be back with his family, Lisa Baillie says. Photo / Supplied “We’ve just been on a high ever since Thursday night.” Baillie wanted to thank the Animates staff for getting Freddie scanned, and also whoever cared for Freddie over the past year and a half. – NZ Herald