Lost doll rescued from financial muddle
A Delaware judge plucks it from toy limbo, healing a 9-year-old Texas girl's heart
By MAUREEN MILFORD
The News Journal Very few creditors in a big-business bankruptcy case walk away as happy as a 9-year-old girl in DeSoto, Texas.
Thanks to the efforts of a bankruptcy judge in Delaware, Renee Hearne got her $150 doll back Wednesday after it disappeared as part of a roughly $106 million Internet toy-company bankruptcy. The blond-haired, blue-eyed doll, named Ginger, was waiting for Renee when the third-grader got home from school.
"I was so surprised. I missed her," Renee said. "She looks the same thing as me."
In Wilmington, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brendan Linehan Shannon pursued the whereabouts of the 23-inch doll after Renee's mother, Carol Hearne, wrote him a certified letter last week.
"A little girl's heart is broken," she wrote.
"For the judge to take the time for a little 9-year-old girl who lost her doll is so compassionate," Hearne said Wednesday. "The economy is awful right now, but there's so much goodness in America -- and this shows it."
Shannon, who presides over major Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganizations, couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. But he maintained judicial decorum when he relayed the outcome of the doll hunt in a letter to Hearne sent Tuesday.
"I am advised this morning that the doll was located yesterday, has been repaired, and is being shipped back to you," Shannon wrote on bankruptcy court stationery. "I am hopeful that this issue is now satisfactorily resolved."
The saga of the lost doll began in November when Hearne ordered a Just-Like-Me Doll from My Twinn, a subsidiary of eToys Direct of Denver, as a Christmas present for Renee. My Twinn customizes its dolls to look like the girls who get them.
When the $150 doll arrived just before Christmas, it came in a cream-colored dress that matches one of Renee's frocks and was a pretty good likeness, even down to the beauty mark near the mouth. But the wavy blond hair was a little too long, the bangs just weren't quite right and the eyelashes weren't long enough, Hearne said.
Still, it was the only thing Renee wanted from Santa, so he delivered the doll on Christmas morning. It was her first big- girl doll.
In the next few weeks, Hearne tried to convince Renee to send her doll to the doll hospital in Virginia for a little cosmetic surgery and a haircut. But, because Renee associated hospitals with the loss of her father -- who died in 2006 from cancer -- she was reluctant to let it go, her mother said.
"Took me forever to convince her it was going to be OK," Hearne said. "Maybe she had an instinct. She said: 'Mommy, I just don't feel comfortable.' "
The doll's hospitalization appeared to be going well, with an e-mail sent from My Twinn in early February, saying the doll had arrived and was waiting to be admitted.
Two weeks went by.
After phoning and e-mailing the company, Hearne learned the company was bankrupt, she said. She relayed the bad news to Renee, telling her "bad things happen and sometimes bad things happen to companies."
"She cried and she cried and she cried," Hearn said. "I felt horrible. I cried."
Renee wanted her mother to ask President Barack Obama for help, but Hearne decided to follow the chain of command.
"My daughter is very distraught. It took a lot for her to send her doll off to the hospital as her father had cancer, went to the hospital, and never came home," Hearne told Shannon in her letter. "Your honor, when you are ruling on this case please keep my child in mind."
Jeffrey Dulberg, who is counsel to eToys and its affiliates, which included My Twinn, said they tracked the doll down when they heard from the judge.
Because My Twinn was sold to TPC Acquisition LLC of Rahway, N.J., in February, there was a period of a few weeks when the business was frozen because of the sale, he said.
Edward Nehmad, vice president TPC Acquisition LLC in Rahway, N.J., said it was good to play a small role in the happy ending.
"My Twinn dolls are all about providing comfort and happiness to kids," he said.
To Dulberg, who has dealt with distressed companies for about 14 years, it was an unusual outcome for a bankruptcy case.
"In a bankruptcy, customers often go away unhappy or with pennies on the dollars for their trouble," said Dulberg, who is a partner with Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones LLP of Los Angeles. "What was nice about this was the judge took an interest. The judge understands that people are affected by these things."
"Renee is the face of the economy," she said. "Honestly, I am blown away by how much people have wanted to help us. It's amazing to see how much good there is."
Lost doll rescued from financial muddle | delawareonline | The News Journal
Aside from the whole creepiness factor of the doll and wanting one to look exactly like you, I need to applaud Judge Shannon.
Having worked in the corporate bankruptcy field for over 11 years, it's easy to turn a jaundiced eye to a lot of what happens over the course of a case. For a judge (and a busy judge at that) to stop and do what he did makes a lot of us old-timers smile and realize there's still some good out there.
Kudos, Judge Shannon.