After Merrily Ansell lost her sister, Emily, to cancer, she channeled her grief into helping to ease the suffering of those with the same affliction. In fact, she made it her life’s mission. In 2000, Merrily created Books, Bears & Bonnets, Inc., which donates gift boxes to various hospitals for patients of all ages undergoing treatments for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
For five years, Merrily watched her sister undergo multiple treatments to help her beat her cancer. After Emily passed, Merrily decided to encase her passion for helping others into a thoughtful and meaningful box that would be delivered to as many hospitals that would take them. Each box, hand-assembled by Merrily and volunteers in her community, contains a book, a stuffed bear and a “bonnet” or hat of some sort for the patient. The book is for the patients to read and keep them occupied during the long days of treatment. The stuffed bear is meant to bring the patient comfort and something to hold during treatment procedures. Finally, the “bonnet” would help hide the after effects of the different treatments of various diseases.
Since its inception, Books, Bears & Bonnets, Inc. has donated approximately 21,000 gift boxes to many hospitals. And according to Merrily, that doesn’t mean that only 21,000 people were affected by them.
“If you multiply that number by four, that math gives you a more accurate total number of people affected by these comforting boxes,” said Merrily. “Patients usually open their boxes with at least one person with them, whether it is a nurse the patients have bonded with or their entire family. These boxes reach more than just the patients.”
Merrily often receives cards telling her that patients do not always keep the boxes for themselves. Fighting cancer is a group effort. Parents undergoing treatment, for example, often share a part of their gift boxes with their children or possibly a nurse that they have grown attached to. Merrily hopes to have touched the lives of at least 84,000 people.
Books, Bears & Bonnets, Inc. receives their funds through donations from private individuals in their community and those that have been affected or have received one of the gift boxes Merrily so lovingly assembles. Only one franchise donates to this noble cause. StinkyKids, created by Britt Menzies, Merrily’s daughter, donates 10% of its profits every year towards the efforts of Books, Bears & Bonnets, Inc. StinkyKids is a doll and book franchise that teaches children to be “leaders of good” and help the “little stinkers” solve their way out of sticky situations. The StinkyKids will be expanding into a musical as well as animation soon. A line of 12” plush StinkyKids dolls is manufactured by Madame Alexander.
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