KAPLAN — A hug can be a powerful thing in a time of need.
A Hug From Heaven, well, that can make all the difference in the world.
Julie Romero, whose company, Hugs From Heaven, LLC, produces huggable dolls of Jesus and the Mother Mary, would like to try to make some difference for families and others affected by the tragic shootings last Friday in Newtown, Conn.
Romero is looking to send enough of her dolls so that the families of the 26 victims, as well as each student at Sandy Hook Elementary, can have one.
“All that happened on Friday and we were distraught,” said Romero, a 1996 Vermilion Catholic graduate. “It really didn’t hit me until Monday that I felt God was telling me that I need to send some dolls.
“I was on a mission from that thought.”
The scale of which she would carry out her initiative limited to the families of the 26 victims, 20 of whom were children. That changed.
“Within that hour (of the decision) I received a call from the Rosary House New Iberia,” Romero explained. “They sell my dolls over there. The lady told me a woman named Tina Viator wanted to purchase a large amount of dolls.”
Romero contacted Viator in regard to the large order.
“I wanted to see what she needed,” Romero said. “She told me she wanted to send the dolls to Connecticut. I told her ‘wow’, I just started to have the feeling that I want to do the same thing. I told her I wanted to ship on Tuesday enough for the 26 families. She told me she wanted to send enough for every child in the school. I thought it was meant to be because I had the right amount of inventory to do that.
“It was perfect and it seemed like everything was falling into place.”
Romero is accepting donations to help cover the cost and shipping the dolls to Connecticut. Anyone wishing to help can send donations, care of Hugs From Heaven, LLC, to P.O. Box 833, Kaplan, La. 70548.
“We are asking for donations because that was (Viator’s) original plan,” Romero said. “We’re just trying to get the word out.”
While the idea to send the dolls to help grieving families is but couple of days old, the idea for the dolls dates back nearly 15 years.
“My brother had a double transplant in 1998,” Romero said of Chad Marceaux. “We didn’t think he was going to make it. I was resting in the waiting room. I was crying and wishing I had Jesus there to hug me and cover the hole in my heart.
“I thought that, if I don’t have the real Jesus here to hug me, a big, soft stuffed doll would be the next best thing.
“I just let that sit on my brain.”
The thought remained for several years.
“I left it alone because I didn’t have the capacity to understand what I was thinking at the time,” Romero said. “Then in 2011, my brother passed away on my birthday.
“I took it as a sign that I needed to make the dolls.”
Romero includes with each doll her story that inspired her to make the dolls.
“It’s just a special story to me because of my brother,” she said.
Many others, though, have connected their own personal stories to the dolls.
“I didn’t realize how much of a connection people would make,” Romero said. “I love hearing the stories from different people about how it helps them. They’re are not just for children. It’s fascinating for me to hear the stories from older people.
“There has definitely been a positive reaction to them.”
That does include Romero’s four children, Emmie, Wyatt, AnnaJane, and Andrew, as well as her husband, William Romero.
“They have definitely enjoyed the dolls and have been supportive,” Romero said.
Romero now she hopes the dolls can lend some support to those in a grieving community.