Imaginary Friend Comes to Life Thanks to Cystic Fibrosis Volunteer


Neely is a beautiful eight-year-old girl with quite the imagination! She even dreamed up and drew Pinky, the Pegasus Unicorn, her imaginary friend. Neely is battling Cystic Fibrosis. CF is a life-threatening genetic disease that affects 30,000 children and adults in the United States. It is primarily a lung disease caused by a defective gene that makes the body produce thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections. Neely’s family says she’s trying to make the best of her situation and remains active and energetic most of the time.

[UPDATE: You can now turn custom artwork into a one-of-a-kind plush! Make your own stuffed animal by clicking here to get started!!]

imaginary friend
Neely drew Pinky on her ceiling tile at the hospital.

Neely can spend more than an hour each day treating her CF with what she calls the “shaker”. It’s the High-Frequency Chest Wall Oscillation Vest which generates rapid vibrations across her chest to help move mucus up into the large airways. She’s been in and out of hospitals since she was diagnosed with CF as a baby. One hospital lets children draw anything they want on a ceiling tile in their room. Neely chose to draw her imaginary friend, Pinky, on her tile!

Melinda Wiegele was introduced to the Nashotah, Wisconsin family as part of a program to raise money for CF. Melinda says she saw first-hand the daily struggles of what it’s like for Neely to live with CF. She also found out that Neely loves to bake and eat sweets, as well as learn Taekwondo and talks about Pinky all the time! Melinda realized just how special Neely was and wanted to bring her imaginary friend to life. She turned to Budsies to create a custom stuffed plush of Pinky. “I wanted to give her something really special because she had touched my heart,” said Melinda. 

Imaginary Friend Comes to Life as a Budsie

When Melinda saw the Pinky Budsie for the first time she says it turned out perfect and couldn’t wait to give it to Neely. She got exactly the reaction she was hoping for from the eight-year-old. Neely started screaming “it’s Pinky” before she was even able to fully unwrap it! “I had never seen a girl jump up so high with pure excitement from having her friend with her forever,” says Melinda.

custom stuffed animal
Neely jumps for joy when she got her Budsie.

Pinky now goes with Neely wherever she goes, including hospital stays. Melinda told Budsies, “I just wanted to let you know you changed this little girl’s life with your creation and I cannot thank you enough.”

Cystic Fibrosis volunteer gives Budsie

The mission of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is to provide all people suffering from the disease the opportunity to lead full, productive lives by funding research and drug development, promoting individualized treatment, and ensuring access to high-quality, specialized care. Over the last 7 years, the Milwaukee’s Finest program has raised $351,084 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to help find a cure for this awful disease. 

You can make your very own custom stuffed animal Budsie.

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My name is Melissa Headley, and I am a blogger for Budsies. My first grader and two fur babies keep me on my toes! You'll find me with a cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine after 5 o'clock and covered in dog hair always! I love sharing heartfelt stories and any tips to help make life easier. Follow me on IG @TheMelissaHeadley