Dolls For Dementia Helping Area Residents

Emily Richey, a 14-year-old freshman at Paris High School, knows from first-hand experience what happens when someone suffers from dementia.

Richey, the daughter of Dr. Jason and Tracy Richey of Paris, saw her grandmother suffer from the disease when she was only 6 years old. She also remembers her grandmother being soothed and comforted by a stuffed animal she kept with her. She came away from that experience wanting to help dementia patients and those who care for them.

Richey and her father started doing research on the effect dolls and stuffed animals had on those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. "A lot of research shows that it improves their behavior and cuts down the amount of medicine they need," Richey said.

With her dad’s help she started a non-profit organization called Dolls for Dementia, Inc.

Emily and her younger sisters, Anna Claire, and Maggie, are working together for this organization she has created. They hope for "Dolls for Dementia" to continue expanding throughout the years so that all dementia patients around the area are provided a doll. Their goal is to be able to provide 100 dolls or stuffed animals in 2014 for patients locally and to increase awareness of this need in our community. There is a certain type of doll/stuffed animal that is recommended by the Alzheimer’s Association. They cost approximately $50-$100 each.

Last week "Dolls for Dementia, Inc." along with Paris High School FBLA donated 21 dolls and stuffed animals to Greenhurst Nursing Center residents in Charleston and Short Mountain Lodge in Paris.

Those who were involved in the visit to these two facilities received a very big blessing when they gave these dolls to the residents. They saw smiles and tears and had some wonderful conversations with the residents. The recipients of these dolls and stuffed animals were truly happy to have them. It was an experience these students will never forget and they look forward to visiting the next facility.

The director of one of the facilities let Emily know that since they have had the dolls, she has seen more compassion, love, and sharing than she has seen in years. One resident will share his/her doll with others if they are feeling sad, and so on.

Dolls and stuffed animals were also delivered to dementia patients at Paris Health and Rehabilitation Center in Paris, home to the largest dementia unit in Arkansas. The Paris High School FBLA took 25 students to help with this doll delivery and it was very successful. "Dolls for Dementia" brought in guest speakers from the Frank and Barbara Broyles Foundation in Fayetteville. Betsy Broyles Arnold and Molly Arnold Gay with Care

Givers United spoke to a group of 63 people that day about dealing with dementia and caring for loved ones who suffer from the illness.

"Since they started this, they have had hundreds of people tell them they can remember an elderly family member holding a doll," Richey said.

"Doll therapy has been known to give patients suffering from dementia the feeling of having a purpose," Richey said. "The patient may care for the doll as they would a baby, such as feeding it, changing it, dressing it or simply holding it. This may revert them back to a pleasant time in their lives when they were younger and taking care of their own children. Studies show this type of therapy can produce a calming effect on the patient."

Emily and her FBLA group have put together a Community Service Project Committee and they have led the group in fundraising events. The members of the committee are Emily Richey, Brittany Fulmer, Aliyah Austin, Abby Biggs, Hannah Needham, and Kaitlyn Williams. These FBLA members have sold hot chocolate at the Paris High School and the Paris Middle School. They sold "kisses and crushes" during the week of Valentine’s Day. They also held a fundraiser at Paris Elementary School called, "Penny Wars". They spoke to 21 elementary classrooms and explained dementia to them and how dolls will help the elderly. The students spent a week bringing loose change to fill jars in their classrooms. The fundraising committee threw a cookie decorating party for the class who brought the most money. This fundraiser was a huge success, bringing in over $1,200 and raising awareness for dementia.

They are also seeking other sponsors, Dr. Richey said. "We’re looking at getting some corporate sponsors," he said. "We have recently been contacted by facilities in Van Buren and Northwest Arkansas who would like to partner with us in this effort."

Emily has created a website and a Facebook page for her organization. For more information please go to and please LIKE them on Facebook. You can also follow "Dolls for Dementia" on InstaGram and dolls4dementia on Twitter.

Anyone interested in helping with this cause or donating to the organization, please contact, or call (479) 847-5006.