Puente Pal T-Shirt Dolls

Celebrate 5 Years of Puente Pal Doll Making Ministry with us!

Sunday, July 14th
Celebration & Hospitality Table Host

Sunday, July 21st
Doll Making Workshop
All are welcome. We will show you what to do!

Learn More Below

About Us

Third Sundays / 11:15 am

Puente Pals dolls are made from refurbished t-shirts – to give to children who are passing through San Antonio. We have templates and instructions available, but what is most important is to have dolls that migrant children can carry with them and use as comfort and pillows as they travel to their new life.

Email Kathleen for more information, on-site workshops, and service dates.

Our History

Beginnings in 2019

The United States experienced an influx of migrant families seeking asylum crossing into Texas. Travis Park Church found itself in a position to help the thousands of migrants who used San Antonio for a hub. From here they traveled to cities all over the country to await their asylum hearings. Most of them arrived with only the clothes they wore and the supplies they could carry. The children had no toys or items of comfort for the long bus and plane trips ahead.

The First Pal

Ralph and Kathleen Laborde met children in Brownsville who had just crossed over from Mexico. Having walked hundreds of miles from their homes, they had very little in the way of supplies and certainly no toys. Returning to San Antonio they discussed the need with their daughter Isabel. With a degree in Education and years of experience teaching small children she helped to create the first Puente Pal. The family started with a soft old t-shirt. They increased the shape of a cookie cutter to be large enough for a pillow and soft enough for a child to carry.

Word spread through news stories and word of mouth. That summer everyone knew of the plight of migrant children and wanted to do what they could to help. Pillow dolls arrived from all over the United States. Travis Park UMC was able to host parties in the park for migrant families and supplied each child with a doll.

Throughout the summer and fall of 2019 hundreds of children spent the night at Travis Park UMC. Volunteers and staff set up special activities and services for them, including distributing Puente Pals.

Successful afternoon and happy Puente Pals on their way

Pals were delivered to migrant camps in Matamoros, Tamaulipas in north eastern Mexico and in Del Rio, Texas to be distributed in camps across the border. Several organizations that were providing assistance asked for Pals to distribute. The pattern and instructions were shared with church organizations throughout the region.

Matamoros Migrant Camp

2020 Pandemic

During the Pandemic we were not able to meet in our monthly workshops. Workers continued to pick up materials and create Puente Pals on their own. We continued delivery to the migrant camps as well as to those in need in San Antonio.

During the heaviest winter storms those in need were not always children.

Pandemic Pals & Corazon Ministries overnight shelter


Today we don’t know how many organizations have taken up the ministry of making Puente Pals. The pattern and instructions have been shared all over the country. Pals have been spotted in the arms of children crossing the border and in migrant shelters as far away as New York City. Travis Park UMC workers alone have sponsored workshops with many friends over the past five years including a group on a pilgrimage to Crystal City, United Women in Faith, The Florida State University local alumni association and University of Texas students in the first-year program. We have had help from local church members and from the prestigious Dos Carolinas custom guevara studio. Most recently we have partnered with Interfaith Welcome Coalition as the best path to get the Pals in the hands of those who can use them.

Our workshops are modest, supplying an average of 20 Puente Pals a month. From our shop alone, however, we have placed Pals in the hands of 1200 children. In the coming months we will be bringing in technology that will help us create the core Pals more quickly. But the real magic comes in the hands of the makers who give each Pal it’s own unique personality.


Click on the image below to view larger

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