It all began with her own physical suffering, and through this suffering she has helped heal others.
In a telephone interview, 18-year-old Ally Doucette of Belle Plaine, Minnesota, said, “When 13, I began waking up each morning with inflamed fingers and was in a lot of pain. We still don’t know what it is (as a diagnosis) except that I have severe arthritis symptoms in every joint in my body that can get arthritis. We don’t know the kind of arthritis, but do know it’s a symptom of a larger chronic illness. We don’t know that illness either.”
The “not knowing” bothers her. Her team of doctors can’t figure out a specific diagnosis other than saying she has an auto-immune disease. Currently, she takes “pretty heavy” pain medication and doesn’t handle most physical activities well. When out with friends, for example, about every 15 minutes she must sit and rest.
But from suffering an idea arose. While in a hospital for her illness, she met younger patients going through even more trying circumstances. Doucette knew what being in the hospital felt like and soon started a business to “give back” to these children who had emotionally supported her as a fellow patient.
She began making what she called “Allyhoos,” which are cuddly, all fleece, custom-made, animal-shaped pillows. Doucette and her team take online orders from customers and, after manufacturing the pillow and a duplicate, send the original to the purchaser and the duplicate to a patient at Children’s Hospitals & Clinics in Minnesota. The purchaser’s name appears on the duplicate. She has sold more than 200, and donated another 200.
Because of federal privacy laws, she normally can’t meet kids receiving Allyhoos. However, she was able to meet one 10-year-old boy whose mother ordered one online herself after her son had been given one in the hospital.
Doucette said, “They bought one themselves a year ago. He said the Allyhoo he’d received as a donation had been a familiar face to wake up to after surgery. It provided comfort. When ordering, his mother said I could deliver it in person. What I like best is knowing I’m making someone’s day easier. When you’re young and at the hospital it can be big and scary.”
Lately, Doucette has kept her business going while majoring in small business and entrepreneurial studies at Vermillion Community College. One day, she would like to spread her idea to hospitals nationwide.