By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Marlborough – In her short 15 years of life, Bernadette LaFollette of Marlborough accomplished many things. She was a straight A student at Marlborough High School (MHS), was a member of the school’s marching band, wind ensemble and drama program. She was a member of the Immaculate Conception Church where she was an altar server and sang in the children’s choir. Bernadette also loved to write and hoped to publish a book one day. All of this, in spite of a significant heart defect that she was born with. But most importantly, according to Julia Dougherty, Bernadette was a wonderful friend who cared about others and did not let her illness stop her from living life to the fullest.
“We met in preschool so I always knew about her struggles. But if you had never met her, but was talking to her on the phone, you wouldn’t realize that she was sick,” Julia said. “Her energy was just so high, she was always going. She never let on.”
“She told jokes that were so bad they were really fun,” she added. “And her laugh was just so contagious.”
Sadly, Bernadette passed away in December 2013. To honor her friend’s memory, Julia has established “the Bernadette Project,” a fundraiser which collects toy donations for Boston Children’s Hospital where Bernadette was treated during her life.
The idea for a toy drive actually started several years ago when Julia and Bernadette held a drive for their Bronze Star Girl Scout project. In 2014, Julia chose to continue the toy drive as part of her confirmation project and as part of her work with the Peer Leaders group at MHS.
“We collected over 450 new toys and gift cards,” she recalled. “It was overwhelming seeing them in my living room.”
All items collected will be once again be donated to the Child Life Services department at the hospital.
The items help specialists provide distractions to the kids when they have to have procedures as well as explain what the procedure entails, Julia said. They also help give kids a chance to have some fun and a break from the boredom and stress of lengthy hospital visits.
Suggested items include such things as new toys, books, arts and crafts, journals, Legos, baby toys, video games, batteries and magazines.
This year’s drive will go until Saturday, April 11. Drop offs have been set up in Marlborough at MHS, 432 Bolton St.; 1 Lt Charles W. Whitcomb Middle School, 25 Union St.; Rumors Hair Salon, 500 Boston Post Road; Roc’s Unisex Salon, 221 Main St.; and Wayside Racquet and Swim Club, 80 Broadmeadow St. There is also a drop off at Cloud Nine Toys, 337 Boston Post Road, Sudbury. The store is offering a 10 percent discount on purchases that are donated to the drive.
Monetary donations are also being accepted at www.gofundme.com/bernadetteproject.