It began as a gift to Sandy Cambron's mother-in-law, something she could hold onto when much of her memory had faded. Pearl suffered from Alzheimer's. She was lonely, depressed, and living in a nursing home.

"We would buy her a TV, buy her stuffed animals and nothing would work and one day, we were out shopping and I told my husband, maybe we should get her a baby doll," Sandy Cambron said.

It made all the difference.

"She loved it. She took that baby and slept with it, had meals with it. You could see the biggest difference with her. She would not leave that baby. It was always by her side. When she passed away, we buried the baby with her," Cambron said.

Pearl - Pearl's Memory Babies
Sandy Cambron

Then, last year, when her friend, Shannon Blair, was going through a similar experience with her own mother, Sandy offered a baby doll.

"It was actually my mom's roommate's response. She immediately reached out and started crying. I went back to Sandy the next day and I said, I get it. I get why you wanted to give my mom a baby," Blair said.

Their experiences sparked an idea and not long after. Shannon and Sandy found themselves at a local nursing home handing out baby dolls, and they haven't stopped since.

"300 babies later, we are boomin'. We are visiting as many places as we can," Blair said. They hand out baby dolls, stuffed puppies and kittens.

"It is super emotional. There's not one stage of a resident I can't identify with because my mom was in one of those stages at one point. I've been there," Blair said. Each doll is color coordinated and wrapped in the softest of blankets.

"We had a lady not too long ago, who looked at the baby and said, 'she's not real but she is real,'" Cambron said. It's a touching and heartbreaking reminder of the disease at hand.

"You just have to try to be where they're at," Cambron said.

They're changing lives one baby doll at a time.

"It is just a baby doll, but whatever emotions it stirs up, it's all happy. It takes them back to a joyful time. It's happy and it's sad at the same time," Blair said.

Pearl's Memory Babies runs purely on donations. Shannon and Sandy buy the baby dolls and shop all the bargains they can find to get the outfits, blankets, and even the diapers. If you'd like to donate or learn more, you can visit their Facebook page or website.

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Contact reporter Brooke Hasch at bhasch@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@WHAS11Hasch) and Facebook.