The need for a sense of belongingness is first experienced at the outset of childhood. When babies grow into kids, they find that they long to gain peers who they can interact with and play with. The need for companionship is high during a child’s younger years, and it is imperative that this call is met while they are growing and acquiring social skills.
Integration into society can be fairly easy for most children, but there is a certain group that, unfortunately, have a hard time achieving this – kids with disabilities.
Amy Jandrisevits is a former social worker in a pediatric oncology unit, and she understands all too well how therapeutic it is for children with disabilities to see their differences reflected in the things they play with, which includes dolls. This is precisely the reason why Amy started a project called “A Doll Like Me”.
“In my time working with the kids, I used dolls in play therapy to help the children express themselves,” Amy said. “It’s hard to tell a child that they are beautiful but follow it with – but you’ll never see yourself in anything that looks like you.”
That is completely true. Just go to a toy store’s doll section, and you will notice that these doll figures all have a similar look, and notably, almost perfect features. It is hard to convince children with unique physical attributes that they fit in, especially when there is little to no representation of them in the world around them, including their toys.
With this thought, Amy began to create her own non-traditional Raggedy Ann dolls for children with disabilities. Each is handmade and reflects the look of the child that it is made for. It matches every detail – their ethnicity, unique physical characteristics, and medical issues. Which is no surprise why children who receive them get extremely excited. The look on their faces says it all!
Each doll costs about $100 to create and ship, but if the families can’t afford to pay, Amy covers the cost through the money raised with a GoFundMe campaign. She has also partnered with a children’s hospital to help provide dolls to kids who are undergoing medical care so that they can find comfort in these dolls.
Amy says that her ultimate goal is to be able to give away the dolls for free.
“If we’re going to look at mental health as a necessary part of medical care, this is key.”
She’s made over 300 dolls as of writing, and her efforts have reached far and wide. In fact, she was recently selected as GoFundMe’s Hero of December – a well-deserved recognition, indeed!
“It is an honor to be recognized for what is my labor of love AND it is awesome that other people believe in the power of representation,” Amy wrote. “On the one side, dolls are validating for the little people they reflect. And on the other side, dolls are a tangible way to share kindness and demonstrate acceptance. These children are perfect just the way they are!”
A big thanks to Amy for putting so much thought and hard work into making these dolls for these children, and for representing them in a way that they could most relate to. Truly, Amy is a hero in her own right, and we hope that her actions inspire more people to become a hero in their own special way.
Watch as one little girl received her own “doll like me” in the video below.