A Doll Like Me
My name is Amy and, in a nutshell, I make dolls for kids who will never see themselves on the store shelves. I like to think of doll-making more like a ministry or a mission than a business. Dolls are therapeutic, validating, and comforting. It is a human likeness and by extension, a representation of the child who loves it. 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.
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.
In my past life (pre-kids!) I was a pediatric oncology social worker. A big part of my role was helping children adjust to what felt like an out-of-control situation. Let's face it...hospitalizations and medical procedures are scary when you DO comprehend it; so when you lack the skills to process on an intellectual and emotional level, it's rough. 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?
You and I know that that's not the case. Scars, birthmarks, limb differences, skin coloring, medical equipment...those are all things that you rarely see in dolls, but for kids who have those, it's everything!
My mom taught me that if you see something you want to change, change it! So I did.
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 make dolls for kids, one doll at a time, at my dining room table. My kitchen counter often doubles as a work station.
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.
Doll-making has allowed me to combine my love of dolls with my passion for social work. I have always been disappointed in the lack of diversity in dolls. So, as my mom taught me, if you don't like it, do something about it!
I have partnered with a children's hospital to identify kids who might benefit from having a doll for comfort as they go through their medical care. The money raised here will help me do that. Funds raised will be used to pay for materials and shipping to cover the cost of dolls for those who can’t afford it. Any remaining funds will be used towards turning A Doll Like Me into an official non-profit organization.
Ultimately, I don’t want any parent to have to pay for something that’s so important. If we’re going to look at mental health as a necessary part of medical care, this is key. If you want validation and play therapy, you need these dolls. My ultimate goal is to fulfill every doll order that comes in and not have the families have to pay for it.
I appreciate you reading the story of A Doll Like Me, and I wish you fulfillment in your life no matter what the challenge.
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- Amy Jandrisevits
It's hard to explain how a doll can change things for a child (and family).
I talk a lot about changing the narrative - changing WHO we see and HOW we see them.
This little guy...he has my heart.
Keagan's doll, "Chip", goes pretty much everywhere with him and his mom talks a lot about all of the comments that they receive when they are in public. Recently the conversation has switched from - "What's wrong with him?" and "Why does he look like that?" to "I've seen him and his doll on the news!" and "Oh how cute - he and his doll match!" Isn't that a completely different narrative - for both Keagan AND his mom? Imagine how the former can weigh on someone.
His mom said that having him in public with his doll gave her the courage to put him (and Chip!) in a tank top for the first time in his life. THAT is what I'm talking about when I say that we HAVE to change the narrative. We have to change WHO we see and HOW we see them and how we decide to talk about them...because ultimately don't we all want the same things for our kids?
It's interesting because in the last six months since I was nominated as GoFundMe's Hero, the stories about the dolls have changed a lot. It changed from "a mom makes dolls at her dining room table" to "kids see their faces in the face of a doll for the first time ever" and "Wisconsin doll-maker aims to fill diversity gap in retail." That's huge!
We are going to change the narrative one doll at a time.
Let's face it....the kids who have my dolls are pretty incredible and their cuteness factor is off the charts
The more we see and the more we talk, the more the narrative will change.
Ask Keagan and his mom ❤️
But imagine what it's like for Oprah.
I can tell you what it's like...only this might be even more amazing. I get to tell parents and caregivers that they don't have to worry about the cost of a doll because someone...a perfect stranger...has taken care of it for them. Nine times out of ten it moves them to tears.
For many of these families, strangers aren't always the most supportive or accepting. Imagine being asked - "What's wrong with him?" or "Why does she look like that?" every time you are in public. Imagine being told that you are weird or gross or creepy. Strangers can be so hurtful.
But they can also be very kind.
I get to deliver the news about those kind strangers. I get to be the one that tells a family that a stranger IS supportive and DOES care. I get to deliver a very physical form of kindness and it is pretty amazing. You are those strangers. You are making an impact on a child's life that you may not even being to understand.
It's rare that this happens, but one particular donor is local to me. I decided to make it very personal for the family receiving 'his' doll and took a picture of him holding the doll. (I am sharing this with permission from both the little boy's mom and the mom who is receiving the doll for her son.) Rylan did a fundraiser for his birthday and intended to collect enough money to buy a doll for someone. This is one of those dolls:
"When I got the message this morning saying a little boy did a fundraiser to raise money for a doll for MY son I was shocked. I didn’t believe it. You are an incredible young boy and I’m so thankful that you did this for my son. As a single mom I wasn’t sure how I was gonna pay for the doll because it’s hard enough as it is now. You helped me out more then you know. My son will cherish this doll forever . I can’t wait to receive it and see the look on his face . He is only 2.5 years old but he knows that he is different, so to have something that looks like him is gonna be awesome. Again, I appreciate everything ! I Thank you so incredibly much for doing such an amazing thing for someone you don’t even know. You are an amazing young little boy."
Thank you once again for believing in the magic of dolls and for allowing me to show these families that the good outweighs the negative.
I was talking to a journalist today about this exact thing. From very early on, kids understand who is and who isn't represented - who is in ads and movies and books and...toys.
I tell this interesting story...several months ago my youngest watched her first princess movie and the first words out of her mouth were - "I wish I had blonde hair and blue eyes." I was horrified partly because, despite our insistence that we are all born perfect, she had this "standard" in her head already. Additionally (and here's the really crazy part), she DOES have blonde hair and blue eyes! She can walk into any store or watch any movie and images like her are everywhere.
So what happens when that's NOT how you look? What messages are we unconsciously and unintentionally sending to the littlest members of our community? We want to believe that this sort of standard is just a myth and doesn't exist but unfortunately it does and many families navigate the waters of "what's wrong with him?" or "why does she look like that?" every day.
I talk a lot about changing the narrative for our kids - in particular the ones who DO see their faces in the faces of my dolls. How do we teach kids that you can be beautiful inside AND out no matter what? Because isn't that what we all want?
There was a little guy who was gifted a doll and his mom asked him why dolls were so important to kids who might not look like the dolls on the shelves. He said, "Because everyone is born special and everyone deserves to have a doll like them." His mom pressed a bit more and asked him what that means to him. He looks into the camera and says, "It means that I'm special."
This is one of the dolls that has stayed with me because the story of her little girl is one that is heavy with hope and anticipation, and also heartache and grief. This little one is waiting for a heart transplant and she has spent most of her short life in the hospital. She has a complicated medical history and her parents call her a warrior. I agree.
I am grateful to all of the hands involved in making this doll. From the kind strangers who bought this for a child they’ve never met...the quilter who sent a doll blanket so that the doll can be wrapped in love...the seamstress who is making matching outfits for the doll and her girl...and the quilter who made a tiny sized hospital gown.
This is the essence of what it means to be a village. When one of ours needs lifting up, it’s just what we do ♥️. People who support this labor of love are some of the nicest in the world!
Remember when you see these dolls, that behind each one is an incredible story of a little person who deserves the best of all of us.
Thank you once again.
Hi Amy. First, I want to thank you for putting your time & money, and heart, into making all of these! I can’t imagine how many children out there would love, & benefit from these dolls! Second, I wanted to know if I am misunderstanding something you wrote in the original story, regarding the “little girl who was transitioning”. I consider this to mean that this little girl, whether it be by name, how she would dress, or (god forbid) surgery., is actually going through some type of a sex change to become a little boy? Is this correct? You obviously have no obligation to respond, but I’d definitely appreciate it if you did. Thanks!
Hello, can you send these special dolls to England? My son has a birthmark on his head since birth, he's 1 years old now and just a beautiful boy inside and out, but people can be so cruel and hurtful with their comments (I've shed a few tears). If you could get back to me I would love to have one of your dolls for my son. Kind regards Claire x
Hello...I think what your doing is soo inspirational and making such a difference to those children. I would like to know how I can go about ordering a doll for my daughter...I am happy to pay. She lost all her hair due to Alopecia and it is very difficult finding dolls that look like her. Thanks x
Pls help us to raise fund for my gf .. she is suffering from lgmd limbe girdle mascular dystrophy .. may be next yr gene therapy will be the cure for all mascular dytrophies ... we don' t have much money to go for it .. I can send u all the reports bt pls help us .. my name is mayank sharma from india my gf name is rama sharma she lives in dehradun uttrakhand my paypal link is Paypal.me/rahulecom1996 Pls help us pls
Beautiful person & beautiful soul!!
I have a special needs daughter that would love one of these ♥. What a great thing you are doing. And I will be donating to. Hugs.
Keep up the great work. Also, did you catch Ugly Dolls? The ending reminded me of your cause.
ma'am can you please help me out on my champagne
please check my campaign ❤️ I need tremendous help as well . thank you & god bless .
Oh my goodness this is such an amazing thing you are doing. I was beyond thrilled to contribute to this wonderful task you have taken upon yourself. This doll is just so sweet and yes, when we see these dolls it does remind us that there is a story of an amazing little person that goes with them. God Bless you. and the work you are doing. The world needs more of you!!