Our Canada - - Cause For Applause -

Carol Is­feld. Mark said, “Look, Mom: A lit­tle child has lost her doll and a doll her lit­tle child.” Re­mem­ber­ing his happy up­bring­ing in Canada, he added, “These kids don’t have a child­hood.”

Carol was moved by the photo and felt the need to do some­thing to help her son cope with the daily chal­lenges he faced on duty. Giv­ing a gift of a doll to the chil­dren of war, to bring a lit­tle hap­pi­ness into their lives, would also bring joy to Mark as he gave them out. So Carol be­gan cro­chet­ing lit­tle dolls—girls with yel­low pig­tails and boys with blue berets. She sent them to her son and, as Mark gave out the dolls, he be­came known as the sol­dier who col­lected lit­tle smiles, lit­tle hand­shakes and lit­tle hearts.

Trag­i­cally, the fol­low­ing year, Mark was killed by an ex­plod­ing land mine on June 21, 1994, in Croa­tia. Af­ter his death, Mark’s troop named the doll af­ter Izzy and con­tin­ued giv­ing out Izzy dolls to the chil­dren in his hon­our. Over the years, the Izzy doll has be­come a sym­bol of peace, show­ing the hu­man­i­tar­ian side of all Cana­dian sol­diers.

Na­tion­wide, knit­ters and cro­cheters joined Carol’s cause to bring smiles to the chil­dren of war. Their can­did com­ments ex­pressed the joy they felt in help­ing the chil­dren. Many of the el­derly crafters had lived through wartime and the Great De­pres­sion. They said they knew what it was like to have noth­ing, and that cre­at­ing an Izzy doll for a child who had noth­ing was some­thing they just had to do.


To re­lieve suf­fer­ing in the world, Van­cou­ver res­i­dent and Cana­dian vet­eran Billy Will­bond and his wife Lynne started ICROSS Canada (In­ter­na­tional Com­mu­nity for the Re­lief of Suf­fer­ing and Star­va­tion). Since its in­cep­tion in 1998, ICROSS Canada has re­pur­posed and dis­trib­uted mil­lions

of dol­lars’ worth of med­i­cal equip­ment to suf­fer­ing Third World vil­lages, and sent med­i­cal aid and much more. Billy sought and re­ceived per­mis­sion from Carol Is­feld to use the Izzy doll for, as Billy put it: “for the poor­est of the poor on the planet.” Carol Is­feld sug­gested the knit­ters and cro­cheters use darker colours for the skin tones, mak­ing the dolls more real for these chil­dren. It would be called the “Izzy African Com­fort Doll” and even more crafters were ex­cited to vol­un­teer.

Al­though Billy’s death in 2014 has left an un­mis­tak­able void, many veter­ans across Canada—in­clud­ing Maj.-gen. Lewis Macken­zie (Ret’d), the pa­tron of ICROSS Canada—con­tinue to col­lect used hos­pi­tal equip­ment, Izzy dolls, African com­fort dolls, and medicines for ship­ment to Third World coun­tries and coun­tries need­ing as­sis­tance.


Much has hap­pened in the years fol­low­ing Mark’s death. More than 1.5 mil­lion Izzy dolls have brought com­fort, peace and love not only to the in­no­cent vic­tims of war but also to chil­dren suf­fer­ing glob­ally be­cause of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, star­va­tion, dis­place­ment and trauma.

Many Cana­dian char­i­ties, doc­tors, health care work­ers, stu­dents and oth­ers also take thou­sands of Izzy dolls with them each year to distribute to chil­dren in South Amer­ica and Third World coun­tries.

In 2007, fol­low­ing the death of Carol Is­feld, I be­came the “Izzy Doll Mama.” I’m for­tu­nate to be work­ing in part­ner­ship with the Cana­dian Mil­i­tary En­gi­neers, other Cana­dian Armed Forces per­son­nel and, in par­tic­u­lar, with for­mer Cana­dian Mil­i­tary En­gi­neer As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Lt.-col. Ken Holmes (Ret’d), who is my mil­i­tary ad­viser.

As well as those men­tioned above, the Is­feld fam­ily and the multi-tal­ented Phyl­lis Wheaton, whose book In the Mood for Peace: The Story of the Izzy Doll was pub­lished in 2011, have taught me the true mean­ing of “hu­man­i­tar­ian.” The giv­ing of time, tal­ent and love that Cana­di­ans across the coun­try have shown for the suf­fer­ing chil­dren of the world through the Cana­dian Mil­i­tary Engi­neer­ing Izzy Doll Project con­tin­ues to be a jour­ney of love. n

Ms. Wheaton has posted a link to a free E-book that can be down­loaded at the fol­low­ing web­site: www.inthe­mood­for­

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