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 Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.

(More History)