"I think that a doll is a tangible way to show kindness," says Amy Jandrisevits, the woman who started "A Doll Like Me" campaign.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on July 9, 2021. It has since been updated.
Dolls that most people grew up playing with came with perfect bodies, hair, and skin. The manufacturers didn't take into consideration that each person is different, unlike the standards they've set. But, people are working hard to break these unrealistic barriers set forth by huge conglomerates and Amy Jandrisevits, from Wisconsin, is one of them.
Jandrisevits runs a small business where she creates dolls that would have the same characteristics as their owners with disabilities and/or rare conditions.
A doll collector since her childhood, Jandrisevits is now the proud owner of A Doll Like Me. The only reason she began her small company is because of the lack of diversity among the toys that were available in the market. Children with disabilities only felt insecure, instead of feeling included and loved, as they should have been.
Since Jandrisevits strongly believes that dolls are "therapeutic, validating, and comforting," she filled the gap in the market for dolls with disabilities, per CBS News.
"I am a doll-maker who feels that every kid, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, medical issue, or body type, should look into the sweet face of a doll and see their own," she writes on the GoFundMe page for her project.
"I talk a lot about changing the narrative - changing WHO we see and HOW we see them. I believe that we are not only connected to one another but we are obligated to take care of the people in our village - the global village, so to speak - and it is our responsibility to make sure that everyone has a place at the table." As a former pediatric oncology social worker, she used play therapy in order to help children adjust to situations that felt out of their control.
This was difficult to do when none of the dolls she had access to look like the children she worked with. She asks, "Play therapy is how kids work through all of that, and dolls are an integral part of the process. What you ideally want is for a child to see him or herself in the doll that you are using because, again, shouldn't all kids be able to see themselves?"
The 45-year-old woman, who works off of her dining room table, goes above and beyond to complete each order, and says her aim is for the doll to resemble the child it’s intended for as closely as possible. Though no two dolls of hers are the same, the one thing they all share in common is a huge smile. “It’s so difficult to tell a kid ‘you’re beautiful just the way you are, but you’re never going to see a doll that looks like you,'" she said.
“Typically, parents or caregivers pay for the dolls – about $100 with shipping per doll. When they can’t afford it, I’ll find a way to cover it myself. Whatever it costs, whatever I have to do, I’m going to get a doll in the hands of these children. This isn’t just a business. It’s the right thing to do.”
With time, Jandrisevits has been able to turn her "A Doll Like Me" campaign into a non-profit. She states, "Many kids have never have had the opportunity to see their sweet faces reflected in a doll. 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.' I think that a doll is a tangible way to show kindness."
Cover Image Source: GoFundme/A Doll Like Me