Mother, daughter collecting baby dolls, stuffed animals, coloring books for local nursing home residents

Tears of joy and smiles spread throughout a local nursing home as a Hannibal girl shared her baby doll while visiting her great-grandmother and great-grandfather.

Ten years later, the little girl is now a teenager. The baby doll is well-worn from endless cuddling and feeding. RaCayla Adams is joining her mother, RaChella Brookhart, on a mission to spread that joy from years past with residents of local nursing homes by collecting donations of baby dolls, stuffed animals and coloring books.

Brookhart fondly remembered the impact her daughter’s visits made as she brought her baby dolls in to share.

“The little grandmas would grab them up, and just hug and kiss on them,” Brookhart said. “They just couldn’t wait until she came in with her baby dolls.”

Adams held up the baby doll she shared years ago, and her mother said that they both wanted to help put a smile on residents’ faces — giving back to the communities that cared for their loved ones. Brookhart said her grandmother purchased baby dolls for fellow residents years ago, and now she and her daughter are carrying on the tradition to spread happiness to as many people as they can.

Brookhart and Adams saw a video on Facebook a couple weeks ago, and it inspired them to set their endeavor in motion. The women in the video gave baby dolls to female residents and stuffed animals or baby dolls to male residents.

“The tears in those videos — and the faces — I said, ‘now is the time,’” Brookhart said.

She and her daughter are collecting new and gently-used baby dolls, and they will provide a receiving blanket and feeding bottle with each donated doll. They are also gathering stuffed animals and coloring books, which people suggested through Facebook posts. The mother-daughter team looks forward to sharing the dolls, animals and art items with nursing homes in the Hannibal area, and eventually expanding so they can visit nursing homes in neighboring communities.

Through the Silver Snuggle Love Facebook group, donors can see firsthand what their donation provided and the joy on a recipient’s face. So far, Brookhart said messages have been pouring in, and donations have come from as far as St. Peters. She said she and her daughter have witnessed residents at nursing homes who are sometimes forgotten by family and friends, along with the joy and smiles that a baby doll or stuffed animal can bring.

Brookhart and Adams set a goal to collect at least 20 donated items by March 15, so they can share the joyful items before Brookhart’s birthday on April 1. As they receive more donations, they would like expand their mission to Pike County, Monroe County, Palmyra and other areas.

“I’m really excited that we’ve had the outpouring and the support from the community with the amount of donations we’ve received,” Brookhart said, pointing out they received baby dolls and cash donations to purchase dolls, animals and coloring books. Adams said the positive outcome was immediate and heartwarming to witness — she regularly visits Maple Lawn Nursing Home with fellow members of the United Pentecostal Church in Palmyra.

“You see how their faces just light up, or how they’re so excited to see us,” she said. “It’s just breathtaking how you can make such an impact with such a little thing.” Along with the joy they inspire, the dolls and animals could also provide other benefits to recipients.

Brookhart said she recently saw a report suggesting that therapy with dolls and stuffed animals could provide benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies through the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging found that therapy dolls provided people with opportunities for “sensory stimulation” and “purposeful activity.” She and her daughter agreed that the visits and gestures made an immeasurable difference.

“You see such a smile on their face, and how that impacts them,” Adams said. “Even if it’s just one person, we’re still changing someone’s life doing that.”

For more information about how to support their mission, please search for the Silver Snuggle Love Facebook group or call Brookhart at 573-629-7453.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at