'A Doll Like Me': Helping children with disabilities feel seen through personalized dolls
One woman is changing the lives of children-- one doll at a time. Amy Jandrisevits is the woman behind the non-profit -- "A Doll Like Me." She makes dolls for children who don't see themselves on store shelves.
"So we're talking about kids with limb differences -- we're talking about kids with cancer or birthmarks — just kids that can't walk into a toy aisle and say hey that looks just like me," said Jandrisevits.
Years ago, Jandrisevits was a social worker in Los Angeles. She worked with children with cancer and understood back then how important it was for those children to be comforted and to feel represented.
"I think that we wildly underestimate the power of being seen and seeing yourself and I think that that's what's made these so successful," said Jandrisevits.
"A Doll Like Me" brings comfort, joy and acceptance into children’s lives. The doll maker behind the company creates dolls that resemble their owners: children with a variety of disabilities, so that every child feels seen. (A Doll Like Me)
"You know, we tell kids you're perfect you're beautiful just the way you are, but we don't show them themselves in anything that looks like them, so you figure that the toy market is probably the most powerful market to a child," said Jandrisevits. "But for the majority of the kids that I make dolls for they'll never see themselves, I mean they'll never see themselves in another child, let alone a toy, and so I think that this is very powerful in that way."
Jandrisevits has made dolls her entire life for fun-- but now she's making them for a greater purpose.
"We haven't eaten in our dining room and seven years. Our kitchen counter typically has you know painter doll hair sitting on it, the glue gun is almost always on. This is the reason why I went into social work in the first place, was to make a difference and now I’m just doing it in a different way," said Jandrisevits.
About seven years ago, a friend of hers approached her and asked her to make a doll with an amputated leg.
"I am not joking when I say within two months I had 200… and it was only for dolls with limb differences. I actually never been caught up since that point, but what it shows you is how hungry people are for a narrative that includes their kids," said Jandrisevits.
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By the power of social media and word of mouth, she's now making dolls for children all over the world. Jandrisevits said one question people often ask her -- is why she doesn't mass produce these dolls.
"This is not a factory situation you can get that somewhere else, this is very personal-- it's not a check the box right. If you want right arm, left arm, this is a story that parents typically want to tell you, and so I don't ever want to lose that intimacy," said Jandrisevits.
"A Doll Like Me" brings comfort, joy and acceptance into children’s lives. The doll maker behind the company creates dolls that resemble their owners: children with a variety of disabilities, so that every child feels seen. (A Doll Like Me / FOX 11)
Behind each doll is a child with an important story.
"The ones that take the longest are the dolls that are really emotional for me and have a really heavy story attached," said Jandrisevits.
"I think that we have a skill set, and I think that you know as humans we're obligated to share that skill set with each other. I mean look at something simple as a doll can change someone's life," said Jandrisevits.
Thanks to GoFundMe and donations, Jandrisevits has been able to give the dolls away to families for free.
Follow "A Doll Like Me" on Instagram. Each child’s story will inspire you.
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