Thursday, December 21, 2006

Three-year-old Peruvian girl is one face of Children's Hospital doll donation plea

"Champ" doll accompanied young patient through surgery donated by Dr. Shelagh Cofer

Three-year-old Betsy Vilca Sucari managed to charm everyone she met when she visited the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. To Betsy, a native of Peru, the Americans-- with their strange habits, completely indecipherable language and interesting toys-- were just fun to visit with. But to those who got to know Betsy in the one-and-a-half weeks she was here, her visit was so much more. Betsy had a fast growing tumor in her neck that was beginning to hurt her ability to eat and sleep. It had to be removed and ear, nose and throat surgeon Shelagh Cofer, who met Betsy on a medical mission trip, volunteered to do the surgery for free. The surgery was a great success and throughout recovery, Betsy clung to her Champ doll, which she had named “Perrito,” (Spanish for “puppy”) and within a day or so, she was back to playing and charming once again. Betsy made a great recovery and climbed on a plane one week after surgery and was home with her mother in Peru by two days later.

The Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital is putting out an urgent plea to the community to help save Champ. The Hospital’s canine “champion” isn’t sick, but a stuffed animal made in his likeness that is given to every young in-patient (except newborns) is in critically short supply.

“Champ dolls are made overseas and then must be shipped. The only way to make that affordable is to order the dolls in bulk,” said Susan Kohari, interim Champ Program manager. “We need to place an order at a cost of more than $15,000. That will keep us supplied for maybe six months.” Currently the Champ fund stands at less than less than $4,000. Meanwhile, there are only a couple of dozen of the dolls left to give to sick and injured children who are admitted to the hospital. That means by the first of the year there will be no more Champ dolls to give to patients unless additional funding can be found.

To keep up with the greater-than-expected demand for Champ dolls, hospital officials are re-designing the Champ to be smaller; more like a “beanie Champ.” “Our patients say they love the beanie style and this will allow us to order smaller dolls in larger amounts and at lower cost,” said Kohari.

The current cost is $16.00 for each Champ. If you are interested in supporting the Champ doll program, please send your donation by check to:

Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital Champ Fund
2200 Children’s Way
Suite 2410
Nashville, TN 37203-1042

Please make checks payable to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital (put in description line: For Champ fund).

The Tennessean also published this story about the call for Champ donations and the response of four Bellevue children.

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