This Amazing Woman Customizes Dolls to Brighten the Lives of Kids

Seeing their unique selves in these beautiful creations can be a game changer.

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Girl playing with her customized doll thanks to Amy Jandrisevits of A Doll Like Me

(Photo courtesy of A Doll Like Me)

Kids love to play. It is the way they learn new things and even helps their growth and development. But what happens when a child can’t find a toy that represents them, looks like them, or has the abilities and disabilities that they do? Amy Jandrisevits has found a way to give every child a toy that matches them — and it’s beyond heartwarming.

The power of toys
On Facebook, Jandrisevits explains her calling in a nutshell:  “I make dolls for kids who will never see themselves on the store shelves. Different is beautiful.”

Jandrisevits, a social worker who used to practice at a pediatric oncology unit, created a non profit organization called “A Doll Like Me”. She understands the power of toys and now spends her time sewing beautiful, custom-made dolls that match their owners. For children with disabilities, this means their doll will have, for example, a birthmark or missing limb, just like them. 

The therapeutic value kids get from seeing their differences and uniqueness reflected in the things they play with is infinite. For many of the children Jansdrisevits makes dolls for, their “Doll Like Me” is the first time they’ve seen a toy that matches them, says Today. And that uniqueness, she says, makes the doll, and them, beautiful.

And how does she feel about what she does? As Jandrisevits told Goodnet: “As for me, I like to say that the 10-year-old version of Amy is THRILLED that I still get to play with dolls many (many!) years later.  I love being able to combine my passion for social work with creativity.  It is a privilege and an honor to be invited into lives filled with beauty, tragedy, joy, pain, pride, and raw emotion.  I get to provide dolls for those at the beginning of their lives and for those who sometimes are at the end.  I am humbled and thrilled by the response I have received.”

How a doll is born
Based out of her dining room table, Jansdrisevits runs the whole operation with her trusted sewing machine and the help of her mom and the input and enthusiasm of other family members including her kids. She spends a great deal of time looking at pictures of the child, then designing the doll and creating it.

This is an emotional process, and she works on one doll at a time only. But, reports AbilityMagazine, she doesn’t refer to this as work — it is a mission.

Making a difference, one doll at a time
“My doll has a baby hand and I have a baby hand. My doll has a big hand and I have a big hand.” These are the type of things kids have said about their custom-made dolls. Other reactions kids have when receiving their dolls can be seen on the organization's Facebook page. They are absolutely heart-melting.

As  Jandrisevits explains to Goodnet: “I believe that we cannot experience true empathy and an understanding of why representation matters until we look into the face of these children…watch their reactions to receiving a doll…and hear what they say about what seeing themselves actually means.  Oftentimes I hear from adults who will say, “Having a doll that looked like me could have been a game changer” or “I struggled my whole life with how I looked and I would have loved to have a doll that looks like me.”  I even have video of some of the really little guys whose faces light up when they realize that the doll they are holding is them!“

She also shares that: “Parents often tell me how the comments have shifted from “what’s wrong with your daughter” to “how cute that her doll looks just like her!”  That’s an entirely different message, isn’t it?”

A Doll Like Me has so far made over 300 dolls, says Inspiremore, a platform working on  inspiring the world and sharing hope. Jansdrisevits is finally getting recognition and was recently selected as GoFundMe’s hero of the month!

The world is ready for change and more representation of minorities in toys. A Doll Like Me is now creating diversity in kids’ toys and allowing children with disabilities to be represented with what they play with. And it means the world to them.

As Jandrisevits tells Goodnet: “Remember….that which makes us different also makes us beautiful and because of that, everyone deserves to look into the sweet face of a doll and see their own.”

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