R.I. man continues to give back with dollhouses

Posted Online: April 27, 2010, 12:00 am
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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com
Each one has a purpose, and number 40 is no different.

Rock Island resident Dan Begyn struggles with Parkinson's Disease, but the blue eyes show defiance, reminding others there's still a fight left, and maybe a little bit of a kid left in his 58-year-old body.

Mr. Begyn was at Hillcrest Elementary School in East Moline on Friday, signing another dollhouse away for another good cause. He built his first one in 1997 for his mother.

Number 40 is for the victims of the Haiti earthquake and for the children at the East Moline grade school. The school is holding a raffle May 21 at the Soul Bowl for the dollhouse. The raffle will be part of a school celebration.

The proceeds from the dollhouse raffle will be split 50/50 between earthquake victims and the school.

"Dan's a good man," said Hillcrest principal Jim O'Brien. "He has sold quite a few tickets himself."

Mr. Begyn has a special interest in Hillcrest. His grandson, Andrew Serpa, is a fourth-grader there. Tagging along with his grandpa, Andrew gets to run the band saw Mr. Begyn uses to build the dollhouses.

He watched his grandpa for two months cut and measure pine and cedar woods to create another work of art.

"He's my apprentice," Mr. Begyn said of his grandson.

Mr. O'Brien said the school and Mr. Begyn have raised more than $300 so far. The principal said the school would like to use the money to help purchase a SMART Board.

"In fact, we've had some events here where we have sold tickets," Mr. O'Brien said.

Some of those events included a movie night and book-fair night. Mr. O'Brien said the school will send out a note this week, "for all of our families to purchase tickets."

Mr. Begyn enjoys the response he receives from people. He has crafted dollhouses for Gilda's Club, the University of Iowa Children's Hospital in Iowa City, and for people with disabilities, among others.

"Kids love the heck out of them," Mr. Begyn said once. "I like to watch the kids open and close the doors."

On May 21, he'll get to see the fruits of his labor become reality when a lucky ticket is picked and dollhouse number 40 leaves the school grounds.

As he speaks about the dollhouse at Hillcrest, Andrew tells of the time his grandpa made him a Frankenstein monster out of wood.

"I found this little chopped up log outside in the backyard," Andrew said. "He (Dan) painted it a little bit green, put some legs, arms, a channel changer from the TV on his back. He put little bolts in the side of his ears."

Grandpa Dan laughs as Andrew tells the story. They look like two kids standing next to one another, the grandpa being the bigger, but no more grown up, of the pair. Some of Mr. Begyn's enthusiasm and skill seems to be rubbing off on his little shadow walking alongside him in the school hallway.

Although he moves a little slower than he once did and he shakes, Mr. Begyn said he will keep going on until he no longer can handle the saws and the work.

Dollhouse number 41 is in the works, he said. Where it will go still is to be decided. It's something Mr. Begyn still has control over -- his ability to help others.

To purchase raffle tickets or for information on the raffle, contact Hillcrest Elementary at (309) 755-7621 or Mr. Begyn at (309) 716-0782.


Local events heading

  Today is Friday, April 25, the 115th day of 2014. There are 250 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: Never in the history of Rock Island was there such a demand for houses as at present. Our city is suffering for the want of suitable tenement houses.

1889 — 125 years ago: The choir of Central Presbyterian Church presented a ladies concert under the direction of S.T. Bowlby.

1914 — 100 years ago: Miss Rosella Benson was elected president of the Standard Bearers of Spencer Memorial Methodist Church.

1939 — 75 years ago: Mrs. Nell Clapper was elected president of the Rock Island Business and Professional Women's Club.

1964 — 50 years ago: Gerald Hickman, of Seattle, Wash, will move his family to Rock Island to assume the position of produce buyer for the Eagle Food Center chain of food stores. This announcement was made today by Bernard Weindruch, president of Eagles.

1989 — 25 years ago: Care & Share, formed in 1984 to provide food to jobless and needy Quad-Citians, will disband because the major part of a crisis created by plant closings is over. Food for the needy is still necessary. So groups separately will continue to raise money and collect food.

(More History)