The coronavirus pandemic took so much away from us, but it also brought out the best in people. Amid the suffering and devastation, this global health crisis revealed the natural kindness, generosity, and courage of many individuals, making them our heroes during these turbulent times.
American Girl, the popular doll line owned by Mattel, wanted to honor and thank the people who have risked their lives amid this pandemic, so they launched the “True Heroes with Heart” contest. The competition asked kids all over the country to nominate an exceptional hero in their life.
After combing over one thousand entries, American Girl dolls company announced the five winners on their Instagram last week. The victors received a custom-made doll and outfit in their nominee’s likeness to gift the honoree and a $250 American girl gift card for the nominator.
“Our criteria points of originality, being heartfelt in nature and fitting the contest theme helped us narrow it down, but truly every submission was moving and it’s wonderful to hear of all the real-life community heroes around us,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement.
One of the selected heroes is 39-year-old April O’Quinn, a paramedic for the Richmond Ambulance Authority. Lacey, her niece, entered her story in the contest for the courage she exemplified after returning to work despite having just recovered from the coronavirus.
“When she was finally healed and released back to work, she didn’t hesitate for one moment,” Lacey wrote of her aunt, according to a quote from the American Girl website.
Like all COVID-19 patients, this one-of-a-kind frontline worker experienced issues with her breathing.
“The lung problems were probably the worst part for me. I couldn’t lay down. I had to sit up. I slept sitting up,” April said.
Despite all that she went through, April promptly returned to service once her doctors gave her the OK.
“I feel very fortunate that I only have the minor problems that I have and I can be back to work,” the EMT said. “I like to get in there, help people, and then step back into the dark.”
Last month, Lacey called her aunt to let her know about the exciting news, and the reaction on the other end was of pure shock.
“I had no words. I ended up crying because I couldn’t say anything,” April recalled.
She said that her niece’s “excitement and smiles” as she opened the doll were all worth it.
April’s message for young girls inspired by her story is: “We are just as strong as the men are. We can do this job just as well as everyone else. Don’t let anyone hold you back because you are a girl.”
The American Girl dolls company is not available in stores. However, April hopes that it can be sold one day, and all the profits will go to a worthy cause.
The EMT is among five honorees. The others are:
Laurent: This pilot for Spirit Airlines was nominated by his daughter for flying a team of American doctors to Haiti to help the country fight the coronavirus. He also operated a return flight full of stranded US citizens. His daughter wrote, “I am so proud of him for stepping forward to help!”
Xavier: This 17-year-old grocery store staff was nominated by his sister for working five days a week amid a pandemic. In her submission, she wrote, “He has asthma and he still risks it to help out.”
Sarah: This nurse assistant was nominated by her granddaughter for feeding the homeless and for her work as a caregiver. “I hope that when I grow up and become a surgeon, I will help people with the same love as she does,” her granddaughter wrote.
Pam: This teacher was nominated by her students after visiting their homes carrying a smile, an encouraging sign, and a bag of books.
“Whether you’re providing healthcare, keeping families stocked with food and supplies, or making sure cities keep running, we owe you a huge thanks,” said American Girl dolls company on their website.
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