Pearl's Memory Babies: Baby dolls helping Alzheimer's patients

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Up until late last year, Shannon Blair was taking care of both of her parents at her home.

Her father has cancer, and her mother has Alzheimer's.

Sadly, just before Christmas, Shannon's mother Martha Gray had a heart attack and had to be moved into a nursing home.

"My co-worker Sandy kept asking about my mom," Shannon said. She and Sandy Cambron had been working together for 9 years, but she found it curious how often she kept asking about her mom.

Then Sandy finally told Shannon, "I would love to have the honor to give your mom a baby doll."

"I was a little baffled when she brought it up, but I said alright," Shannon said.

So Sandy and Shannon went to the nursing home and delivered two baby dolls, one for Martha and one for her roommate.

"My mom didn't have much of a reaction at first," Shannon recalls. "But when I turned the corner to her roommate, Ms. Green, she immediately reached out -- both hands fully extended and took the baby and brought it to her chest."

Shannon says she cried for an hour, witnessing the impact it had on Ms. Green.

She was so taken by the baby, that the nurses had a hard time changing her because she wouldn't let go of the doll.

Sandy and her husband Wayne do these baby doll deliveries as part of their ministry.

It dates back 10 years ago, when Wayne's mother Pearl was battling Alzheimer's.

"While she was transitioning from home to the nursing home, she was very lonely," Sandy tells us. "So we took her a baby doll and it just became her baby. It was just amazing the difference it made in her."

Pearl loved her baby so much that when she passed away, they buried her with the doll.

Now Sandy and Wayne make the deliveries as often as they can.

"We started doing it at as many Christmases as we could do. And my husband would dress up like Santa and I would go with him and we would pull the wagon and take the babies to the people."

Sandy and Wayne also provide diapers, a change of clothes, and bottles.

After the special moment of delivering baby dolls to Shannon's mother and Ms. Green, Sandy asked, "Would you let me have the honor to make the whole unit babies?"

Shannon was completely moved and on board. Now she had to convince Park Terrace Health Campus, the nursing home.

Luckily, Park Terrace was also excited.

"It took a few weeks. I had to coordinate with the nursing home. Find out how many males, females."

Finally, Wayne loaded up the wagon with 28 babies and four stuffed animals.

Sandy presented the dolls, Shannon stood by her in support and documenting the reactions.

It took hours to deliver them all.

"We would hand a baby and then just cry for a while. It was overwhelming."

There were also stuffed animals.

Sometimes the patients would take to the babies, sometimes to the stuffed animals.

After the incredible experience, Shannon posted images and videos of the doll delivery to her Facebook page.

Within hours, it went viral.

One week after her Facebook post went up, it had amassed more than 184,000 shares and 212,000 reactions.

"I've received messages from 17 states, Nova Scotia and England. And that's just from the messages I've been able to read."

Now Shannon is helping Sandy and Wayne reach more people.

They've created Pearl's Memory Babies to help educate others on their cause.

Sandy and her husband normally pay for  the dolls and their accessories themselves.

But a GoFundMe campaign is up where others can donate to help with the cost of the dolls.

In five days, the campaign had nearly reached the goal of $10,000.

"My goal is for Sandy to have her own non-profit one day."

The next step?

"Getting a website. That way we can give people direction on how to do this in their communities, worldwide."

As for Martha, she has taken to the baby.

It's how she made friends at Park Terrace, where they would come to her room to visit the doll.

She named the baby Shannon.