Henley Gardens knitters mark creation of 3,000th Izzy Doll for distribution to vulnerable children around the world

Knitters at Henley Gardens recently celebrated the creation of their 3,000th Izzy Doll. The group also knits hats for premature babies and babies undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Photo by Alan Shackleton.

A group of local knitters at Henley Gardens, in the Kingston Road and Victoria Park Avenue area, marked an important milestone earlier this month as they celebrated the creation of their 3,000th Izzy Doll.

The knitters have been making the small woolen dolls for years as part of a project that was inspired by a Canadian soldier who lost his life while clearing landmines on peacekeeping duties in Croatia in 1994.

The small, knitted Izzy Dolls are now distributed to vulnerable children around the world by Health Partners International Canada (HPIC) as part of packed medical kits.

The knitters at Henley Gardens are proud to be able to use their skills to create not only the Izzy Dolls, but also small woolen hats for premature babies and/or babies undergoing chemotherapy treatment to wear.

“Our first 100 we thought were a triumph, and we happily sent them off,” said Julie Cowling of the local knitters and their Izzy Dolls. “We never knew where they went but were happy to help.”

For their most current batch of 325 Izzy Dolls and 125 baby hats, which also led them to reach the 3,000th doll, the group continues to not know exactly where their works will be sent or who will use them, but they are proud of the contribution they have made and will continue knitting them. They know that over the years the dolls have been given to children in Afghanistan, Mongolia, and Syria, and to orphanages in a number of African countries through HPIC.

The Izzy Doll’s history goes back to 1994 in Croatia where Master Corporal Mark Isfeld served with the Canadian Army’s 1st Combat Engineer Regiment as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission. Canadian military members regularly distributed the dolls to vulnerable children after 1994.

“While serving, Isfeld was moved by the suffering he witnessed, especially among the children he and his fellow soldiers encountered in Croatia. He noticed that many children had no toys or personal possessions as their families had fled from danger. This inspired him to ask his mother, Carol Isfeld, to knit dolls small enough to fit in his pockets, that he could give to children as an offering of peace and comfort,” said the Canadian War Museum’s description of the Izzy Dolls.

“Master Corporal Isfeld was killed while on a mine clearing operation in Croatia on June 21st, 1994. After his death, fellow soldiers asked his mother if she could continue making dolls for them to distribute. They named the dolls “Izzy dolls” in his honour. Each doll comes with a tag that says: ’IZZY DOLL Made for you with love in memory of Mark Isfeld killed in Kakma, Croatia, June 21st 1994, while removing landmines serving with One Combat Engineer Regiment, United Nations Protection Force.’ What started with only Carol Isfeld and some friends making dolls quickly became something much larger as people across Canada joined in. The knitting pattern can now be found online and volunteers across Canada can knit these dolls and send them to Canadian troops deployed around the world.”

Cowling added that the wool used by the Henley Gardens knitters to create the Izzy Dolls and hats for babies is donated by friends and neighbours. At the moment, the group has 14 knitters creating the dolls and hats.

Some of the many Izzy Dolls and hats created by the volunteer knitters at Henley Gardens recently. Photo by Alan Shackleton.

Was this article informative? Become a Beach Metro Community News Supporter today! For 50 years, we have worked hard to be the eyes and ears in your community, inform you of upcoming events, and let you know what and who is making a difference. We cover the big stories as well as the little things that often matter the most. CLICK HERE to support your Beach Metro Community News!

Click here for our commenting guidelines.

Leave a Reply