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One man, 309 Barbie Dolls: spreading holiday cheer in honor of his late wife

Good News with 13
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February 07 2021 06:00 pm

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Being in the midst of the holiday season during a pandemic can be difficult for families and children for a variety of reasons.

However, one Charleston man is spreading holiday cheer while honoring the memory of his late wife.

Loren Cardwell holds a photograph of his late wife, Donna. (Photo Courtesy: 13 News Reporter Natalie Wadas)

Loren Cardwell’s wife Donna had a lifelong love of Barbie Dolls, and he says it became a special tradition in their marriage.

“She said she always regretted that she gave them all away, and that she wished she kept a couple of them. Well, Christmas ‘89 I got her, her first Barbie Doll from me for Christmas. And then we got married the following spring, and every year after she had a Barbie Doll under the tree.” 

Loren Cardwell, organizer of ‘Donna’s Dolls’

After he lost Donna suddenly to illness in 2018, a friend had a suggestion.

“Joyce Browning Suber Chapman, called me with an idea because I posted a story on Facebook about Donna’s love for Barbie Dolls. And she approached me about the idea of starting ‘Donna’s Dolls’ and getting them in the hands of needy children.” 

Loren Cardwell, organizer of ‘Donna’s Dolls’

So, ‘Donna’s Dolls’ was born.

Loren Cardwell says support for ‘Donna’s Dolls’ has only grown over the years. (Photo Courtesy: 13 News Reporter Natalie Wadas)

The community support for this project has been massive. Just this year, they’ve collected hundreds of dolls.

“The first year, you know on very short notice, we collected 119 dolls. Last year, 168. This year, so far, 309 Barbie Dolls.” 

Loren Cardwell, organizer of ‘Donna’s Dolls’

Once collected, the dolls get picked up and distributed by a local non-profit organization called ‘Bags of Blessings,’ which helps provide for children in Kanawha County each Christmas.

“Every year we have lots of kids that ask for Barbie Dolls, and so having these Barbies that are given to our organization allows us to use the funds we would normally spend on Barbie Dolls on other things like coats and shoes.” 

Michelle Painter, secretary/treasurer, ‘Bags of Blessings’
This year, Loren says they’ve collected 309 dolls so far. (Photo Courtesy: 13 News Reporter Natalie Wadas)

“Within two years—three Christmases—we’ve done over six hundred dolls. And that’s in the hands of kids that possibly couldn’t have had a Christmas. All because Donna loved her Barbie Dolls.” 

Loren Cardwell, organizer of ‘Donna’s Dolls’

This year’s dolls were collected Wednesday, but Loren says he’s already looking to next year, and is always accepting donations.

Loren says he’s already looking to next year. (Photo Courtesy: 13 News Reporter Natalie Wadas)

For more information about ‘Donna’s Dolls,’ visit their website here.

For more information about ‘Bags of Blessings,’ visit their website here.

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