Seven-year-old makes sock monkeys to benefit Scottish Rite




Posted on June 7, 2013 at 10:37 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 10 at 8:58 AM

FORNEY -- "This is the socks it starts out with," said seven-year-old Emily Hough, holding two socks of a familiar brown pattern. "It takes two socks just to make one sock monkey."

"Here's an arm, here's another arm," she said, holding up pieces of the pattern. "You have to have sewing ladies sew this and then you can stuff it."

Emily is not a seamstress. She's just a kid. But she knows how to make a monkey, and more importantly, she knows how to defeat a horrifying disease.

Two summer ago, Emily's body began to betray her.

"When we'd go into public, we'd have to hold her hand," said her father, Josh, "because if we didn't, then she didn't have the strength to lift her leg and take a step. And she'd trip and fall and hit her head."

Emily had been one of the fastest girls on her kindergarten tee-ball team. She'd taken gymnastics. But slowly, and mysteriously, she was deteriorating.

"I wasn't able to sit up, I couldn't walk, I started losing my ability to speak," she said. "And at one point, my dad had to carry me out of bed."

Emily even ended up in a wheelchair.

"We went to doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist," Josh said. "We spent almost two months going everywhere we could, and nobody understood what was going on."

Someone suggested Texas Scottish Rite Hospital. And that referral was the key.

"She was diagnosed with dermatomyositis. In this case, it was juvenile dermatomyositis," Josh explained. "It only affects three out of a million children."

It's an auto-immune disease that weakens muscles and often begins with a rash. In Emily's case, there was no rash on her skin -- just a slow deterioration of her muscles. There is no cure.

But Emily is proof that Scottish Rite knew how to treat it.

"I thank them very much for helping me get better," she said.

Scottish Rite gave Emily a Raggedy Ann doll as she went into surgery to have her muscles biopsied to confirm the diagnosis. It was with her when she awoke. And it made her wonder if all the patients got toys.

And that's when Emily's Monkeys was born.

Emily's Monkeys is a project to give a hand-made sock monkey to as many Scottish Rite patients as possible. The Houghs have delivered about 200 sock monkeys so far, but they are not done.

Saturday, June 8 is a "sock monkey making party," says Emily, with a giggle. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. they'll be in the old firehouse next to the Forney Arts Council building in downtown Forney. They're looking for volunteers to come and help them reach a goal.

"We're hoping to make 150 alone in one day," Josh said. "You know, we don't have a factory! It's just us with a bunch of sewing machines and needles and thread."

Forney is fighting with them, with many people pledging to come to the monkey making party to stuff and sew.

Last weekend, the community bought more than $4,000 worth of donuts shaped like sock monkeys. A check with the proceeds will be given to Scottish Rite Saturday.

"It feels really good that they're helping me," said Emily, about her Forney friends.

Her father said the future is promising.

"As long as we manage her disease properly, she should be able to live many years of her life healthy," he said. "What we worry about is that we may have a flare up at some time."

Emily takes a weekly chemo shot and sees her doctors regularly. She's doing very well right now.

"You know, I can read her books when she goes to bed, kiss her goodbye when she goes to school -- all those things are amazing to have," Josh said. "When no one else could show us the light, Scottish Rite did."

And now Forney is helping the Hough family say thanks.

"We've only been here four or five years, but we're not going anywhere else," Josh said. "This is a phenomenal city. The folks here are fantastic."