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Eastern Ont. knitters make 80 peacekeeper 'Izzy Dolls' for D-Day anniversary

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Volunteers in Perth, Ont. have knit small peacekeeper "Izzy Dolls" that will be sent to France in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.

The dolls are named after Master Cpl. Mark Isfeld, who was killed by a landmine in Croatia nearly 30 years ago.

"We've had women right across Canada making the regular Izzy Dolls, why not get them to make some peacekeepers," said Shirley O'Connell, known as the "Izzy Doll mama."

Before Isfeld's death, he would hand out small, knit dolls made by his mother to children wherever he went.

"His troop, who saw the effects of how much it meant to the children and to the soldiers to be distributing these little dolls, asked her if she would continue making them and they would give them out in his memory."

The dolls will be placed in shadowboxes and shared with communities across France.

"This is not restricted to communities from the Second World War … it's mostly for all communities that have a connection with Canada that will be focused on," said Col. Jake Galuga, the Canadian defence attaché to France.

Galuga, along with his wife Lise, attended a presentation of the dolls in Perth virtually from France.

"You've put your hearts into this project. And for me, that's a beautiful part of these dolls. They embody a very essence, community of compassion and support," said Lise.

"I hope that they will bring attention to Mark's legacy and more broadly, to Canada's continued peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts."

The dolls were presented to the chief military engineer.

"For me, it's celebrating his legacy here to leave the world a better place. It's really the small things that makes the world better," said Maj.-Gen. Martin Gros-Jean.

About two million Izzy Dolls have been distributed around the world.

O'Connell says the Izzy Dolls don’t go to just war zones. They are also given to children suffering from poverty or in disaster zones.

"There is a woman in Welland that made Izzy Dolls and she actually knitted a little heart and she would put the little heart inside her doll. So there was no way that the children would know there was a little heart in there," O'Connell shared.

"But it was her way of sending love to the children that were suffering around the world. That's only one incredible story that is connected with these Izzy Dolls."

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