When Kelly and Kris Conover's daughter was trying to recover from brain surgery and later a related stroke, finding something she could play with in her hospital bed often was the best way to offer her normalcy and comfort.

So after Allie died at the age of 5 on March 29, 2017 -- less than two years after being diagnosed with an abnormal connection between an artery and vein in her brain and three months after suffering the stroke -- the Conovers decided to continue a Play-Doh collection for patients at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"The Play-Doh collection was (Allie's) idea," Kelly Conover said. "Sometimes, she'd be in the hospital for about a week at a time and when she'd get to go home she'd say, 'I'm sad others have to stay.'

"We decided to collect Play-Doh because it was something that we could play with in bed when (Allie) was hooked up to IVs or wasn't feeling good enough to go to the play room. Now, when we do things like this, we bring joy and it's the best way to honor her."

The Conovers worked with the Fairfield County Foundation to establish the Shine Like Rainbows: Allison Lynn Conover Memorial Fund, which assists families with ill children from Pickerington and surrounding communities.

That fund, information for which can be found at fairfieldcountyfoundation.org, also is used to make monetary donations to Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Ohio State University Pediatric Residency Scholarship Fund, to provide items to the hospital to benefit patients and families and to match a dance scholarship for a student at the Judy Dollenmayer Studio of Dance in Gahanna.

The support for Nationwide Children's Hospital is gratitude for the "excellent care" Kelly Conover said Allie and her family received there.

Allie's story began with "an odd crying spell" in fall 2015, she said.

In November of that year, Allie was diagnosed with an arteriovenous fistula, a condition that blocked the proper flow of blood from her brain.

"Before that, she was completely healthy and typically well," Kelly Conover said.

Brain surgery at Nationwide Children's Hospital seemingly alleviated the issue, but in December 2016 Allie suffered a stroke from which she didn't recover.

"The care she received at (Nationwide) Children's Hospital, especially in the neurosurgery and neurology departments, it was just beyond anything we could've hoped for," Kelly Conover said. "We feel very confident today that we did everything we could for her and they did everything they could."

Over its first three years, the Conovers' collections drive, which was held in October, has brought in approximately 6,000 cans of Play-Doh and nearly 300 Play-Doh play sets. This year, it reached a record 2,503 cans and 136 play sets.

The Conovers delivered this year's donations to Nationwide Children's Hospital on Nov. 19.

"We were thrilled to receive the donation of thousands of cans and kits of Play-Doh," said Donna Trentel, director of family and volunteer services at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "This gift will be used to promote play, coping and normalization for patients and families throughout Nationwide Children's Hospital.

"Our stock was literally empty and we are delighted to have it filled up and ready to use. Play-Doh is a 'staple ingredient' for engagement and is enjoyed by a wide age range of patients at Nationwide Children's. It is an item that can be used in both group settings, as well as for individual play.

"Play-Doh is so versatile and is not only used for play, but also for learning. Child life specialists routinely use it to teach patients and families about the brain, the digestive system and others. ... We are grateful to receive this simple, but useful donation. It will be enjoyed by hundreds of patients."

The drive, which has ended for this year, receives support from people throughout the Pickerington community and beyond.

Kelly Conover said each year she promotes the drive through Facebook posts.

The rest of the collections have come through other groups in the community. The effort also was bolstered by Peace United Methodist Church in Pickerington, where the Conovers' 4-year-old son, Patton, attends preschool, and the Judy Dollenmayer Studio of Dance, where Allie was just beginning to hone a budding interest.

Conover is a speech-language pathologist at Pickerington High School Central. She said the drive gained support throughout the Pickerington Local School District, including Violet Elementary School where students donated more than 500 cans of Play-Doh.

She said the family "definitely" would bring back the Play-Doh drive next year. She hopes to continue it for many years and to involve her son and the couple's baby daughter, Gracie, who was born in June.

"Most people just send one or two items, but it adds up when 100 people donate," Kelly Conover said. "When we collect, our living room looks like an Amazon warehouse and I don't think they know how much it means to us.

"We're so grateful to our family and friends and the community that continue to keep Allie's legacy alive. I feel like the best way we can honor Allie is by living our best lives for her."

Donations to Nationwide Children's Hospital can be made at nationwidechildrens.org/giving/holiday-giving.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate