Volunteers Celebrate 40 Years of Making Sock Monkey Toys for Patients

Sock Monkey Toys and Volunteers

Forty years ago, flyers appeared around town calling on volunteers to join in some “Monkey Business” to benefit young patients at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford (which was then known as Stanford Medicine Children’s Hospital).

The advertisement read:

The Los Altos Senior Citizens Drop-in Center is forming a new group to sew “Monkey Toys” to be given to the children at Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

Prewashed old hose, bits of yarn and scraps of material will be used for stuffing. If you have some to contribute, please drop off at the Center any Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. or bring it with you on Monday, April 25th, 1977.

Won’t you please come and help us out on this project?

Volunteers arrived to the Los Altos Senior Center with sewing and embroidery thread, needles, and scissors on that day in April 1977, and have been coming back to create sock monkeys for the patients at Packard Children’s ever since.

Every Monday morning volunteers gather to create the toys, which are made from red-heeled work socks, nylon hose, yarn and red ribbons. The volunteers add individual characteristics to each doll as they put on the finishing touches, including unique faces, ribbons and pom-pom decorations.

Over the past four decades, volunteers have created 12,000 sock monkey toys, which have become widely recognized and loved by Packard Children’s patients and their families. The toys have never been sold, but are instead given as a special gift to young patients who need a little extra TLC while staying at the hospital.

Marge Filson, a 95-year-old volunteer, has been a self-proclaimed “monkey toy lady” for the past 28 years. For her, hearing families tell about the joy their toy monkeys bring them is what it’s all about. “You see these kids receive monkeys, and they are so excited,” she said. “Anyone who has received a monkey has been very, very happy. I love seeing the response.”

Sock Monkey and Volunteer

Marge Filson, one of the dedicated “monkey toy ladies”

Filson had a special moment while shopping for monkey toy supplies about 15 years ago. After explaining to the woman behind the counter that the socks she was buying would be turned into monkey toys, she was met with great enthusiasm. “She told me she had always wanted to talk to a monkey toy lady,” Filson explained. “She had spent much of her childhood as a patient at Packard Children’s, where she received her own sock monkey toy, and she had always wanted to meet someone who made them to say ‘thank you.’”

Every month, the sock monkeys are picked up at the Los Altos Senior Citizens Drop-in Center and distributed to patients at Packard Children’s by Joe Manfrey, a 90-year-old volunteer who has dedicated more than 25 years to the hospital.

“After four decades, the handmade sock monkeys continue to bring a sense of comfort to our patients as they go through a difficult time in their life,” said Maryellen Brady, director of volunteer services at Packard Children’s. “We are fortunate to have built a long-lasting relationship with the volunteers of the Los Altos Senior Center, and we are grateful for their dedication to the families who receive these special gifts.”

“Here I am almost 100 years old, and I’ve been at it for over 25 years. It’s very much a joy for me to be involved,” Filson says about making the toys. “It’s such a wonderful program. I’ve put all my life into it.”

Sock Monkey Volunteers Photo Booth

The “monkey toy ladies” celebrate 40 years of service at the Packard Children’s Annual Volunteer Celebration on April 19, 2017.

The Los Altos Senior Center Sock Monkey Group was honored with the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Community Service Award this month for their 40 years of dedication to the hospital’s patients and families.


5 Responses to “Volunteers Celebrate 40 Years of Making Sock Monkey Toys for Patients”

  1. Joanna Losito

    Do you need more nylons?? I have a small bag I’d love to donate – plus some felt – please let me know if innbeed andcwhere to drop off I live in Los Altos- thanks!

  2. Mary Ann Choa

    I’m interested in making toy for patients. Please feel free to call 408-204-2687.

    • JulJenkins

      Hi Mary Ann. We depend on community generosity to help us provide for the special needs of our patients. Thank you for offering to make toys. Donations of new toys go a long way in helping us provide children and teens with play and recreational opportunities. To learn more about the types of toys and donations we accept, and for drop-off information, please visit http://bit.ly/2ilE4Pc

  3. Michael OBrien

    Hello. My wife and I have a friend that would like to donate several knitted wool hats and scarves for the children. Can you please let me know the best way to get them to you and if you would like a picture or more detail, please let me know.
    Thank You

  4. karan kumar

    Seeing volunteers celebrate 40 years of making sock monkey toys! for patients warms my heart! Their dedication and compassion are truly inspiring. These little sock monkeys must bring so much joy and comfort to those in need. It’s wonderful to see such acts of kindness making a positive impact on people’s lives. Thank you to all the volunteers for spreading love and happiness through these adorable creations!


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