Girl Scout creates pediatric trauma dolls

The Gold Award is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting.
To earn it, a Girl Scout must identify an issue within her community and tackle it by creating and providing a sustainable solution with benefits that last even after she has moved on to college or a career.
Girl Scout Michelle Garvey of Wilton High School’s Class of ’15  always wanted to become a doctor, and so she decided for her service project to design and produce pediatric trauma dolls that will be used to educate — and to comfort — hospitalized children. She recently donated them to Norwalk Hospital.
Doctors there will be able to act out procedures on the dolls to help young patients understand what is going to happen to them.
And while doctors can use them, child patients can in turn use the dolls to inform their doctors.
A child can assist a diagnosis by pointing to a spot on the doll that corresponds with an ailment on some part of his or her body, helping the doctor to pinpoint the area of discomfort or pain.
But though their practical purpose is two-fold, the benefits of Garvey’s dolls go beyond medical utility.
What is perhaps most touching about Garvey’s project is that her dolls have the ability to brighten what can be a dark time for a child.
Not only do children get to take a doll home, but the dolls come with special fabric markers so children can draw faces on them. The faces come off in the wash and can be drawn on again.
“You could draw a happy face today and a sad face tomorrow,” Garvey said. “You can do whatever you want. The face can correspond with your mood or it can be downright silly.”

How it happened

Garvey was spending her Wilton High School senior internship in the gastrointestinal lab at Norwalk Hospital, helping to move patients to different areas of the hospital.
At the time, she was not planning on pursuing the Gold Award, but a lead from another Girl Scout — her troop leader, in fact — set the ball rolling.
“I was talking to my Girl Scout leader,” Garvey said, “and her mom lives in Westerly, R.I., and she came home with this doll and she said, ‘Michelle, they’re making these at the nursing home where my mom is, and they’re putting them in their hospital; isn’t this cool? I thought it was very cool and I knew immediately that I wanted to do it for my project.”
Garvey galvanized the Norwalk community and together they produced 50 dolls from donated funds and materials.
It started at Christie’s Quilting Boutique in Norwalk. With the help of the boutique’s Christie Ruiz and the New Canaan Sewing Group, Garvey organized a sewing day in which volunteers helped cut fabric and sew dolls.
“We had 20 to 30 community members come, and we had 10 sewing machines going from 12 to 4, and we made about 50 dolls.”
After they made the dolls, Garvey surveyed patients at the Norwalk Hospital to gauge their opinions.
She presented the dolls and the surveys to the hospital. They accepted them, and Garvey was awarded her Gold Award by the Girl Scouts.
According to Garvey, Norwalk Hospital claims it wants 50 new dolls every year; however, she believes it will want more as time progresses.
She said the staff has expressed an interest in using the dolls in emergency response vehicles and police squad cars for diagnosis and comfort purposes in the field.

A project continues

Now that Garvey is moving on, the New Canaan Sewing Group will be cutting the patterns for the dolls, and a volunteer group at Norwalk Hospital called Designs for Recovery will be sewing them.
“We have enough money and material to make almost 300 more dolls,” said Garvey. “Fifty more are being made right now.”


When asked what was the greatest challenge to completing her project, Garvey answered “time.”
“I was very short on time,” she said. “Normally, girls work on this for a year; I did it over the summer. I decided at the last minute that I wanted to do it.”
But Garvey was not procrastinating; she was busy.
“I worked four out of five days during the school year,” she said. “I just didn’t have the time. I said to myself, you know, ‘It’s disappointing, but it’s OK.’ But then it came to that point where I had that connection at the hospital and I said, ‘I have to do this.’”
Even though Garvey was tied up babysitting and tutoring, she ended up overshooting the project requirements.
“It’s an 80-hour project, minimum, and I worked on it for about 110 hours,” she said.

Off to college

Garvey is off to the University of Scranton, Pa., where she will study biology with a pre-med track.
She plans to continue serving her community.
Garvey has already joined a service program at the university in which she will help clean up the streets of Scranton once a week. She also plans to volunteer another one of her weekdays at the pre-med clinic on campus. Having taken four years of Spanish in high school, she wants to help interpret for Spanish-speaking patients.


Fabric donations may be dropped off at Christie’s Quilting Boutique, 176 Main Street, Norwalk.
Monetary contributions may be made at