Operation Snuggle

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Eight-year-old Kinley Warwick and Kinley’s grandmother, Dina Hourlland, are seeking donations to give dolls and stuffed animals to residents of local assisted living facilities who have dementia. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

The only items on Kinley Warwick’s Christmas list are dolls.

But the 8-year-old doesn’t want to keep them. Instead, she wants to give the dolls tor residents of local assisted living facilities who have dementia.

She’s calling the project “Operation Snuggle.”

Kinley’s grandmother, Dina Hourlland, was the first person she told about her idea. The two are close: Kinley spends her weekends and summers with her grandma, who is a manager at Gittel’s Grocery in Coeur d’Alene.

“We’ve all been touched by dementia in some form,” Dina said, adding that her mother and great-grandmothers were all diagnosed with dementia. “A lot of times, when people are put into care homes, they get forgotten. We felt like, if they have something to hold and cuddle, they’re never alone.”

Doll therapy is an alternative, nonpharmacological therapy used to help ease anxiety among people with dementia. Though studies on doll therapy are limited, some research has shown it can reduce the need for medications and lessen agitation, aggression and wandering.

Dina, who previously worked as a CNA, said she’s seen the impact of doll therapy first hand. She said a baby doll gave comfort to her mother after she developed dementia.

“She would sit and talk to it and fuss with its hair,” Dina said. “She would have something to snuggle when she was by herself.”

That same kind of comfort is what Kinley wants to give to other seniors.

“I’m trying to make people happy,” she said.

Kinley said she wants to wrap each doll in a baby blanket. She’s learning to use a sewing machine so she can make blankets herself, using donated fabric.

It’s a big responsibility, she said, but she’s ready. She already pitches in at Gittel’s — her grandma has taught her how to run the register. Counting the money is the hardest part, she admitted.

“I should already be counting money, because I’m eight,” she said.

For now, she’s counting donations. Several dolls, blankets and rolls of fabric have been donated already. Dina said she plans to deliver the items to local assisted living families between Dec. 19 and Dec. 24.

Both granddaughter and grandmother look forward to putting the dolls in the hands of seniors.

“You can watch the happiness it brings them,” Dina said. “That’s what makes it worth it, whether they forget in five minutes and it’s brand new in 10 minutes.”

Dolls, blankets and fabric can be donated at Gittel’s Grocery in Coeur d’Alene, 1201 N. Government Way.

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