It started out as a simple Kiwanis doll project. Members of the Kiwanis Club of Ostrava, Czech Republic, would sew up some blank cloth figures and pass them out to hospitalized children.
Then, the Kiwanians came up with the idea of asking popular actors and singers to decorate the dolls and print a calendar featuring the results.
Then, they invited the celebrities to help distribute the dolls. And the kids loved it!
“We watched the children’s eyes light up when they saw their favorite singer or actor,” says club President Eva Pastuskova. “On the request of the children and doctors, we have continued with these visits.”
This past year, the following celebs have stepped off the red carpet to wander hospital corridors:
Taťjána Medvecká, actor at the National Theater in Prague, not only painted dolls with the kids, but she also handed out mobile DVD players and toys.
Michal David, singer and composer, brought along his new CD. He also sang the children's hit "Drinking Cola."
"The children are happy if someone comes to visit to make their stay a little more pleasant and liven things up," David said.
Jiřina Bohdalová, Czech actor and storyteller of the Czech children's fairy tales "Rákosníček" and "Pohádky z Mechu a Kapradí,” was a major hit with the young patients. “The little ones' eyes widened when they heard Mrs. Bohdalová reading an excerpt from the Czech fairytale ‘Křemílek a Vochomůrka,’” Pastuskova reports. “They wondered how the lady who does the voices for these characters on TV got here.”
Josef Vojtek, lead singer for the rock band Kabát, helped Kiwanis members deliver equipment for the hospital’s game room and performed one of the group’s signature songs, “Colorado.”
"I have almost all the Kabát CDs at home,” said an enthusiastic 11-year-old Luke, “but I didn't have the signed one Mr. Vojtek gave me. It's mine, and I won't be lending it to anyone."
The Ostrava Kiwanis Club now has 80 celebrity-painted dolls and plans to put the collection on display at the Ostrava City Library as part of the celebration of their country’s Children’s Day, June 1. –Jack Brockley