While participating in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life last weekend, 7-year-old Nevaeh Williams fell in love with a little boy named "Rusty."
"Rusty" is a lifelike red-headed newborn baby doll who was up for grabs at a raffle table for the benefit in Great Barrington.
"She kept coming back to check on him, would talk to him and kiss him," said Rose Lown, who was manning the table and watched the girl interact with the doll throughout the event.
Nevaeh begged her grandmother, Lori Cooke, of Pittsfield, to let her stay for the end of the event with high hopes of winning the drawing she had put in so many tickets for.
But when the name got picked, it wasn't hers.
"She just said, ‘oh no,' and cried," Lown recalled.
In the Relay for Life, participants in teams walk in support of cancer survivors, patients and victims.
Lown is a two-time cancer survivor who has been part of the relay team "Hassan's Pranksters" for the past two years. The doll was made and donated to the cause by dollmaking hobbyist Nancy Cunningham of Pittsfield, who lives next door to Lown's mother.
Nevaeh has grown up doing the relay with her family team, "Rock's Rockers," named after her late great-grandfather, Rocco Errichetto Sr. of Pittsfield.
During this past week, the Pranksters and the Rockers teamed up to take on the new cause -- making one little girl's dreams come true.
The winner of the doll, Sue Giansiracusa, manages payroll at Craneville Place in Dalton and had purchased a single ticket in support of the team.
"I didn't know when the relay was," Giansiracusa said. "I had never seen the doll. I never win anything,"
Plus, she's the mother of two boys who weren't interested in Rusty.
So when Lown reached out to Giansiracusa about her prize, her response was "What am I going to do with a doll?"
A plan was set in motion.
On Friday afternoon, Cooke made the excuse of having to go to Craneville Place to see a doctor for "a boo-boo on her nose."
Cooke brought Nevaeh with her, along with her mother, Madeline Errichetto, and Nevaeh's two young cousins, Sophia and Christian Pringle, who have also grown up attending Relay for Life.
There, Giansiracusa greeted them and invited Nevaeh into her office. She asked the youngster about the relay, the raffle and the loss. Nevaeh thought some other child had won the doll.
Giansiracusa asked the soft-spoken, curly-haired girl in the neon green dress and pink shoes before her to close her eyes and hold out her hands. She gingerly placed the blanket-swaddled Rusty into Nevaeh's arms then said, "Open your eyes."
Like a little new mother, Nevaeh gazed at the doll, mouth open in speechless awe. After few breaths, the girl managed a soft, genuine, "Thank you."
Nevaeh also was given a doll-sized wooden cradle, a bag full of clothing and some accessories like a bottle for the doll -- almost like her own baby shower. She cradled Rusty's head expertly in the bend of her elbow, something she said she learned to do with her real-life younger siblings.
After passing Rusty around to doting office workers, and giving her cousins instructions on baby-sitting next week while she's away at summer camp, Nevaeh clutched the doll, leaned into her grandmother, and sniffled, letting some tears stream down her cheeks. The grandmother hugged the girl, wiping a tear of her own away.
"I'm sorry," she told Cooke, "I'm just so very happy right now."
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