Finding service projects that benefit communities as a whole is a driving mission for the Kentucky-Tennessee District of Kiwanis Clubs.
This year’s Governor’s First Lady’s Project has a sobering theme: Creating trauma dolls to give to children who have experienced a painful event.
“Each year, the district governor’s wife comes up with a different project,” Maryville chapter President Pete Davis said. “She wanted to get as many dolls as possible to give to children in difficult situations. When the project came out, she sent a pattern and directions. They were handmade by six members and their families.”
The chubby, 15-inch dolls resemble a gingerbread cookie. They also lack facial features or defined body parts, helping to put children at ease.
Each took about an hour to cut out, sew and hand stuff, Davis said.
“We made 139 of them,” Davis said.
The dolls often are used in hospitals and outpatient clinics to comfort children undergoing chemotherapy, surgery and other invasive procedures.
The chapter originally planned to distribute them to a medical facility but chose the police department after finding a stronger response there.
Capt. Sharon Moore accepted the dolls on Tuesday on behalf of the department.
Police Chief Tony Crisp said the dolls will be used at New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center to assist children in reporting abuse, injuries and other scary events.
“The idea is to use a washable marker to let a child that has been traumatized show us what happened,” Crisp said.
The drawings also are useful in helping pre-verbal and nonverbal children to communicate, Crisp added.
Observing children at play is a technique that dates back to the Greek era, when it was encouraged by classical philosophers to understand the learning process.
Medical usage of unstructured play dates to 1909, when Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud used it to treat a 5-year-old child for a phobia.
An American psychologist, David Levy, pioneered release therapy in the 1930s, which allowed a therapist to introduce items related to a painful episode during play to alleviate trauma.
Psychologists began using anatomically correct dolls in forensic settings in the mid-20th century to assist in reporting sexual and physical abuse, but began abandoning the practice in the early 2000s when research into false reporting showed formless dolls to be less threatening and to produce more accurate disclosures.
Crisp was pleased by the donation.
“They provide a wonderful service to the community,” he said.