Farewell to Suzy doll after 66 years

The Suzy Doll has been stationed in retail outlets for the past 66 years.
The Suzy Doll has been stationed in retail outlets for the past 66 years.

The little blonde girl in blue, wearing a leg brace with a teddy clutched under her arm, is as much a part of our childhood as Wilsons toffees. But, after 66 years of service, the cerebral palsy Suzy doll will finally lay down her red collection box.

Her retirement coincides with Cerebral Palsy Week (26 to 30 August) and the launch of the Western Cape Cerebral Palsy Association’s (WCCPA) new online fundraising platform.

According to the director of WCCPA, Gadija Koopman, Suzy dolls have been used in fundraising for cerebral palsy organisations in various countries since the 1940s.

“We do not know whether the Suzy doll was modelled on a real child but what is evident is that she was representative of children with cerebral palsy at the time – almost in a pitiful way.

“This, thankfully, is no longer the case as children and adults are active participants in the management of their disability and empowered to take control of their lives,” says Koopman.

She says the decision to “retire” Suzy is because many of the major retail stores, which hosted Suzy over the years, stopped doing so.

“Some because they needed space for marketing gondolas, others because they started their own foundation for donations or because the doll was not aligned with their revamped ‘look and feel’,” she says.

The WCCPA, assisted by volunteers from the Lions Club of Kirstenbosch, has been clearing the collection boxes for decades.

Koopman explains that most of the more than 200 dolls placed in the Western Cape have already been destroyed or vandalised in the past few years.

“The high level of petty crime, often related to the high levels of poverty, saw our volunteers and staff attacked for the bag of coins once they left the retail store,” Koopman says. “Dolls were also damaged and vandalised for the coins in the box, which increased costs to repair the dolls.”

She says some of the smaller retailers in the Western Cape will continue to host Suzy for now but this will eventually come to an end.

The WCCPA’s online fundraising platform (www.wccpa.org.za) will be active from the start of the Cerebral Palsy Awareness Week.

“Suzy dolls have been a way for the general public to support the work of the WCCPA for many decades. The development of an online fundraising platform provides the public with an opportunity to continue supporting its work in our digital age,” says Koopman.

The association also boasts a new logo designed to represent those diagnosed with cerebral palsy in an inclusive, empowered, mobile and active light.

“People living with disabilities have a voice and are valued for their contribution to society. Our new logo aims to remove the stigma often endured by people living with a disability,” says Koopman.

WCCPA has been providing services for the diagnosis treatment, care, training and employment of people with cerebral palsy for the past 65 years.

The association provides the following services:

  • The cerebral palsy clinic (located at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital) caters for children from birth to 12 years.
  • De Heide special care centre is a specialised education and care centre where superb efforts aremade to overcome the intellectual and physical barriers to learning caused by cerebral palsy for 30 children.
  • The occupational day programme situated on the premises of The Village work centre provides adults with disabilities an opportunity to participate in occupational and socialising in activities and learn new skills.
  • Rosedon House is a residential facility and home to 57 adults with cerebral palsy. They are unable to live independently or be cared for by their ageing parents.
  • The Village work centre is a protected work centre for 85 adults with cerebral palsy and other disabilities.
  •  Social work services providing support and assistance to families of children and adult with cerebral palsy.

  • For more information, call 021 685 4150 or email info@wccpa.org.za.

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