Stuffed Toys Patch Hearts

Ally Loo '22 founded a club to help sexually abused children

By Sayantika Mandal Posted Tue, 04/02/2019 - 10:00

When Ally Loo ’22 was 7, she was sexually abused by a family friend.

Her parents took her to CALICO, a child advocacy center in the Bay Area, for counseling and legal recourse. The CALICO staff gave her a stuffed rabbit that she kept close — especially during meetings with lawyers in which her parents weren’t allowed and she had to go over painful details to prepare for court testimony.

“Honestly, that bright green bunny rabbit became my best friend. It was the biggest one CALICO had to offer — practically the same size as me,” said Loo. “I couldn’t open up to kids of my age, but Bunny was there to comfort me.”

Loo, now a first-year nursing major, still struggled with the attack when she was in high school. Her parents suggested she see it as an opportunity to do something positive for others. So during her junior year, Loo, remembering the comfort Bunny gave her, started a student club called PATCH (Plushies Aimed To Comfort Hearts).

The club organizes toy drives to donate to CALICO. In three years, the club has grown to 115 members and has collected more than 1,300 stuffed animals.

“When I started telling my story and began PATCH, a lot of people reached out to me and said that something similar has happened to them,” Loo said. “It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that I’m making a difference in other people’s lives.”

A call to nursing

As a high school student, Loo started thinking about a career that would enable her to help children. Two years ago, after she sought treatment for migraines at a San Francisco hospital and was impressed with the kindness of her doctors and nurses, Loo decided she wanted to become a pediatric nurse.

“I applied to USF because I knew it has an excellent nursing program,” Loo said.

But nursing isn’t all she’ll be studying.

Loo won the Getty Scholarship, part of USF’s new Honors College, and was offered a chance to attend one of three international summer immersion programs. She chose a photography program in Budapest, Hungary, where she plans to work on documentary photo essays.

PATCH at USF

Loo still oversees PATCH and organizes drives to collect toys. With the recent focus on the #MeToo movement and more open discussions about sexual misconduct and sexual abuse, she hopes to start a chapter of PATCH at USF.

“USF's emphasis on social justice will allow me to continue PATCH in an environment where people would be supportive,” Loo said.