A local senior living community is taking a big part of childhood and turning it on its head, as its residents rediscover the soothing nature of stuffed animals. As part of the Sunshine Pets program at The Terraces of Phoenix, no-sew stuffed animals are being used to lift spirits at The Village, the skilled nursing area of the community located at 7550 N. 16th St.

Residents at The Terraces of Phoenix volunteering to fill plush toys for patients at the community’s skilled nursing and rehab center include, from left: Ruth Daehler, Geraldine Mac McGartland, Norma Olson, Margaret Orbesen and Betsy Schultz (photo by Teri Carnicelli).

The pre-made, no-sew plush animals are periodically stuffed with filler by residential living residents, many of who are part of The Terraces’ Sunshine Committee. Each session generates around a dozen stuffed animals. Their creations are then passed along to residents at The Village as personalized get-well gifts.

“This small token of thoughtfulness could be a big part of someone’s recovery by lifting their spirits, bringing the outside world in, and reminding them that they are loved,” explained Dani Lomas, lead activity coordinator at The Terraces, who created the Sunshine Pets program.

Research has shown that therapeutic use of dolls, or stuffed animals in this case, can potentially increase levels of engagement and communication, and reduce episodes of distress—Lomas’ main objective behind implementing the program.

Betsy Schultz is a member of the Sunshine Committee, which meets once a month, but members also stay busy by acting as the greeters for new residents. They also visit patients in The Village once a week. “I like cheering people up and visiting people who are down,” she said.

Norma Olson has participated in the Sunshine Pets stuffing project about four times. “I like being with people, and I like working on a project that helps to give back to others,” she said.

The program is a big hit, and the opportunity to bond while also making a difference in people’s lives has many residents eager to lend a hand. Conversely, recipients of the stuffed animals have been very appreciative of the gesture.



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