The doll for the Nancy Schave Memorial Scholarship stands on Jean Worley’s table wearing a matching dress to the full-size gown laid out behind her. PHOTO BY DAN FOX
By DAN FOX
Eleven days before Christmas, a doll stands on Jean Worley’s kitchen table with pins in her hair, the makings of a wedding veil being constructed about her head. Holding a bouquet of tiny flowers, the doll is wearing a white dress with red trimming, festooned with beadwork and silver highlights – a miniature copy of the very same wedding dress spread out as a guide on the table behind her.
It’s a Christmas tradition, a scholarship fundraiser and community activity rolled into a pink, doll-sized trunk.
The Nancy Schave Memorial Scholarship Doll Raffle is hosted by the Eagle’s Auxiliary, and is a longstanding holiday mainstay in Skagway. Tickets for the doll are usually sold at the Bowler’s and School bazaars, and sometimes at Fairway Market, and proceeds collected fund a $500 scholarship used for continuing education. The winner of the raffle gets a bevy of unique outfits, the doll and a pink suitcase to store the toy and all her accessories in.
Originally, Barb Brodersen said the American Legion began the doll raffle after World War II, and initially raised funds to combat leprosy. Once that disease was conquered, the raffle turned into a scholarship fundraiser.
The raffle changed hands to the American Legion Auxiliary around this time, and powered on under that group’s guidance for many years.
After some time, the Eagles Auxiliary took the scholarship and raffle over, though the name of the contest stayed under the “American Legion Auxiliary” name for several years, until very recently when the name was changed to honor former Skagway School Superintendent and Eagles Auxiliary member Nancy Schave.
The doll is presented and the winner of the raffle selected at the Christmas Eve Pageant at the Eagles Hall on Dec. 24 at 7 p.m.
A hallmark of that presentation is showcasing the doll in a wedding gown, handmade by Worley and modeled after a real-life gown worn by a Skagway woman. Worley said she made her first dress for the doll around 1986, and modeled it after Valerie Lawson’s wedding dress.
“Because I made her wedding gown, I had the leftover material,” Worley said. “So I went ahead and made a replica of the gown for the doll. And ever since then I’ve been doing it, because I made a lot of the wedding gowns [for people in town] so I always had the scraps to use for the doll.”
Over the years, Worley estimated that she’s made around 35-40 replica gowns for the raffle.
“And she [Worley] has never charged a penny, and I don’t even want to guess how many hours she has invested,” Brodersen said.
This year’s replica dress is possibly one of the most complicated Worley has done yet. Modeled after Skagway resident Brittney Cremata’s gown, the wedding dress is a two-tone white and burgundy affair with plenty of additional embroidery.
“I’ve really enjoyed every one, every wedding gown was unique and challenging, and people really like them,” Worley said.
Worley isn’t the only Skagwegian to create clothes for the doll – in fact, most of the doll’s dresses over the years have been made by local women, according to Brodersen. The auxiliary has patterns for the doll’s clothes available, so whatever someone is interested in making, the auxiliary can provide them with a template for it.
“Several of the women who have made dresses over the years have left town, so we need more people interested in making outfits,” Brodersen said. “We’ve had bathrobes and quilts and evening gowns, cowgirl outfits, on and on.”
Deb Boettcher, chairwoman for the raffle, said as an example that Ginny Cochran knits sweaters, hats, scarfs and mittens for the doll every year.
“That’s what makes it special, is that local women have sown those clothes,” Boettcher said.
Sometimes the winner of the raffle is in the audience at the Christmas Eve Pageant, Boettcher said, and other times the doll is delivered to the winner’s house.
“Usually the person is really excited, especially if it’s a child,” Boettcher said. “It’s so cool…when I’m selling doll tickets and Barb is sitting there, the children just love the doll. They come up and they look at the clothes, and say how much they’d love to win the doll.”
Winners in the past have run the gamut of all ages. Some people buy a raffle ticket and write in the name of a local child.
“There are people that come up and buy tickets for their mothers, because their mothers have wanted that doll since they were a child,” Boettcher said. Once, a man purchased the doll from the winner, because the wedding dress had been modeled after his wife’s own gown, and he wanted her to have the doll. Another year, a woman won the doll and gave it to the woman whose wedding gown the doll’s had been modeled after.
“This guy, about 50, won it twice,” Brodersen said. “And always found a little girl to give it to.”
In addition to the numerous women over the years that have donated time, toil and stitches to making clothes for the doll, Brodersen said she appreciates the support the community has given the scholarship raffle over the years.
“The community is supporting this scholarship,” Brodersen said. “Believe me, it’s not a hard sell, you just have to be out there.”