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03/28/2017 04:30 PM

A Small Donation Can Lead to Big Smiles in Deep River

Emma Becker sits amidst the total donations from last year’s Playdoh Drive for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Playdoh isn’t always available for children at clinics because once it is opened, it has to go home with the child to prevent the spread of germs. Donations are being collected at CT Eye Doctors in Deep River, as well as the practice’s Old Saybrook and Guilford offices; the deadline was recently extended from March 31 to Sunday, April 30. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Bonkor

CT Eye Doctors in Deep River is hoping that more people will be stopping in over the next month, though not for appointments. The office is hoping people will bring in donations of unopened Playdoh to donate to children’s oncology clinics through Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC), as part of a larger effort by Emma Becker.

CT Eye Doctors in Deep River got involved with the drive last year after Sarah Gray, one of the team leaders at the Deep River office, saw a post on Facebook where a little girl from CCMC was asking for help collecting donations, because the children’s oncology clinics sometimes ran out of Playdoh for patients’ use.

“Last year our office collected 283” jars, Gray said. “This year we’re doing better.”

Becker, an 11 year-old from Higganum, has been fighting cancer related to a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis, or NF1. Those with this disorder often have tumors on either the brain stem or optic nerve. Becker has both, and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments for 20 months. While she was going through her treatment last year, she realized that there wasn’t always Playdoh at the oncology clinics because once it was used by a child it had to go home with that child, in order to stop the spread of germs.

According to Becker’s mom, Rebecca Bonkor, they started with a goal of collecting 1,000 last year, and ended up collecting about 10,000 instead. They are hoping to repeat the same thing this year.

“Emma doesn’t let her illness define her,” said Bonkor. “She chooses to reach out and help other kids instead.

“It’s hard as a parent to watch your kids go through harsh treatments,” continued Bonkor. “I just remind her that she’s brave and strong, and that it is given to her to change the world one smile at a time...Emma wants people to know that no matter how old you are, you can still make a difference in the world, and that’s the goal with the Playdoh drive.”

“We just wanted to help out,” Gray said of the CT Eye Doctors involvement. “Emma is local and it’s such an easy thing to do.”

The local Playdoh drive has currently collected about 1,300 donations total, and has extended the deadline to Sunday, April 30. Donations can be brought to CT Eye Doctors in Deep River at 1 High Street, or to its Old Saybrook or Guilford offices. For hours and location details, visit

For more information on the drive or simply to send Emma Becker good wishes, visit the Facebook page “Fight Like Emma, A Journey with Neurofibromatosis.”