Mary Ann may have been an afterthought in the original lyrics to the Gilligan’s Island theme song (“…the movie star and the rest”), but Dawn Wells’ fans haven’t forgotten about her. 

The beloved actress who played the farm girl in the classic ’60s sitcom recently fell on financial hard times due to complications following knee surgery. That’s when her friend Dugg Kirkpatrick sent an SOS to her fans, who rallied to raise more than $180,000 in a few weeks via the website GoFundMe to help pay her medical bills and move her into assisted living.

“There simply aren’t enough words,” Dawn, 79, exclusively told Closer Weekly — in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now! —  of her reaction to the campaign. “I am both honored and embarrassed, but overall I am overwhelmed with the love that is being expressed for me.” 

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Dawn admitted she was initially upset when Kirkpatrick went public with her problems. “The whole idea of asking for help took me by surprise,” she said. “I soon realized it was an action taken out of pure love for me by my dear friend. You just can’t stay mad at someone for acting out of love for you.” 

She’s also struggled with the idea of taking money from strangers. Still, “after some very serious consideration, soul-searching, and many discussions with friends and colleagues,” she said, “I am leaning toward accepting the money as the gift it was meant to be.” 

Among the many well-wishers has been Dawn’s sole surviving Gilligan’s Island co-star, Tina Louise, who tweeted a message of support. “How very sweet of her,” Dawn said. “That means so much to me.” 

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Though she recently suffered a fall coming out of a rehab facility where she’s getting therapy for her knee, Dawn is determined to get back on her feet. “The doctors’ reports are encouraging,” she told Closer. “I feel much better.” So, too, do all her little buddies.   

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