kids

Keagan has ‘chocolate chip syndrome’ and now his favourite doll does, too.

Toys have come a long way since the days of the traditional Barbie, whose appearance resembled only a tiny minority of women and girls. In 2019, you can walk into any toy shop and you’ll see dolls of various skin colours and shapes – not with only Caucasian skin and hourglass figures.

Amy Jandrisevits, a social worker who worked in paediatric oncology during the 1990s, used play therapy with dolls during children’s time with her. She noticed that the dolls – often Cabbage Patch Kids – were a mainstream representation of what society saw as ‘typical.’

“I thought, these kids need something that looks like they do,” Jandrisevits told People last month.

But it wasn’t until 2015, when a mother whose daughter lost a leg to amputation asked if she could make a doll that looked like her daughter, that the long-time hobby craftswoman started her non-profit organisation, A Doll Like Me.

 

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I feel that this is long overdue. This is me…I am A Doll Like Me. I am quite sure that the younger version of me is thrilled that the adult Amy still gets to play with dolls! In fact I think she would approve of me taking professional photos with my dolls ♥️ While this technically is a business, I like to think of it more like a ministry or a mission. I laugh when people say – can someone from your company contact me because 90% of the time I look around and it’s my Labrador and my three year old ☺️. “Who is going to field this request?” I ask them. When these media pieces talk about me sewing at my dining room table, it’s the truth. These dolls are very much a part of our family and I work on them at our kitchen counter and in the room that used to be the dining room! We haven’t eaten at that table in years. LOL. ???? I know that the word “representation” is used a lot but it’s very important to me. And obviously it’s very important to the little people that I make these for. This is genuinely a labor of love and my goal is to raise as much money as I can through my go fund me campaign so that for the next several years I can help families who aren’t able to pay. I wish I could do it for free, but fabric and stuffing and doll clothes are pretty expensive. I am so honored to be a part of these kids lives, in such an intimate way. None of their stories are lost on me and behind each doll is a sweet person who longs for a place at the table. One of the most exciting things that has happened over the course of the last three months is that I have been able to advocate for the kids who don’t see themselves on the store shelves. It’s so exciting and I am incredibly grateful for all of this media exposure. I hope that I am representing them in a way that is just and kind and dignified. #thisisme #representationmatters #gofundme #womeninbusiness #customdoll #adolllikeme #changethenarrative #dosomething

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Jandrisevits later posted her creation on Facebook and received an overwhelming response, and many orders. Since then, she has dedicated her life to making dolls for children.

Every doll is carefully handmade by the now 46-year-old mum of three, usually from a photo sent by the parents. Jandrisevits pays close attention to the detail that makes each child unique, and designs their doll accordingly.

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It’s a time-consuming labour of love, but as she explains on her page, it’s also a vitally important one.

“Everyone should have something to cuddle, everyone should have a doll that looks like them (especially when you don’t have any hair!), and medical play is helpful for psychosocial adjustment.”

The importance of dolls in which children can see themselves is more significant than we may at first realise, says Dr Trupti Prasad, a Community Paediatrician in Melbourne.

“This is an absolutely gorgeous concept,” Dr Prasad told Mamamia about the A Doll Like Me product.

“Children with differences and disabilities deserve to be seen. 

“Representation is very important for self-esteem and boosting confidence.”

Dr Prasad added that the dolls offer a sense of inclusion as a valued individual, too.

“Being seen as a person, rather than being othered, is vital – especially for children,” she said.

Jandrisevits has now designed and made almost 400 of the special dolls literally at her Wisconsin dining room table.

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This means 400 children with missing limbs, cleft palates, albinism, birthmarks and other atypical appearances now have a toy that celebrates them.

There is currently a waiting list of about two years, but if there is an order from a terminally ill child, their doll is prioritised, because Jandrisevits knows how meaningful it would be to them at that time.

 

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Posted @withrepost • @zachariahcole13 A few Months ago, we contacted A Doll Like me to create a Doll just like our son, who was born with a rare condition. Zachariah has known nothing but love and support and has never been made to feel he is different, however as he ages we noticed he has started to notice his physical differences. So when we found A Doll Like Me it was perfect! She created a doll fit purely for our Zachariah! Zachariah received the doll and was ecstatic! Once he opened it, it was like it was customized exactly for him, The doll had his favorite color clothes, a pajama set, glasses, blanket and hospital gown! The first words were look mom he has a hospital gown just like me! As a parent that sentence was one of the hardest you hear in your life when you strive to make your child as normal as possible! It was a complete relief that Zachariah has something that looks just like him right down to his facial features and scars and it makes him feel comfortable and want to take care of the doll because it is a part of him! The amount of love that went into creating a doll fit exactly for Zachariah is phenomenal! We couldn’t have asked for anyone more caring to create something so special for us but, that is not where the love ends. Some generous kind hearted person sponsored our look alike doll for Zachariah, which is one of the nicest, amazing things that could have been done for Zach. Receiving a doll that was sponsored, to us meant that someone else cares about our struggle and fight to provide Zach with a lifelong comfort item. This act of kindness and Generosity goes so far into our hearts and will help shape the way we view others. Thank you to A Doll Like Me, and our Sponsor that made this a reality! #changingthefaceofbeauty #boysneeddollstoo #changethenarrative #representationmatters #gofundme #beautifulboy #womeninbusiness

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An example of one of the children the doll-maker has helped is 2-year-old Keagan Cameron, who, due to a skin condition, has brown birthmarks covering his body.

“When kids ask, I say Keagan has chocolate chip syndrome, from eating too many,” Keagan’s mother, Joy Cameron, told People

“I want Keagan to know it’s okay to be different.”

Jandrisevits made Chip, a doll covered in brown spots, for Keagan, and the boy and doll have been inseparable ever since.

The doll has also changed Keagan’s life. As Jandrisevits reported on Instagram, “His mom said that having him with his doll gave her the courage to put him (and Chip!) in a tank top for the first time in his life.”

It was an extremely satisfying moment for Jandrisevits.

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“THAT is what I’m talking about when I say that we HAVE to change the narrative,” she added.

“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?”

 

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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!” 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 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? Let’s face it….the kids who have my dolls are pretty incredible and their cuteness factor is off the charts ???? Journalists and media have a profound ability to change the literal narrative and it makes a huge difference. That’s why I said in another post that if you like seeing the stories, tell them! The more we see and the more we talk, the more the narrative will change. Ask Keagan and his mom ❤️. #nevus #nevuslove #boysneeddollstoo #representationmatters #changethenarrative #changingthefaceofbeauty #kindness #womeninbusiness @gofundme @lyndsey_livingston_photography

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The cost of a doll is approximately $100, but Jandrisevits knows there are families for whom that is unaffordable. It’s why she created a GoFundMe page four years ago, so she can give dolls to children in need.

For her immense efforts, the doll-maker recently received a GoFundMe Hero award. But whilst Jandrisevits was honoured by the award, she isn’t doing it for any recognition, nor profit. 

But she does hope to change people’s perspectives and make the lives of children better.

Her GoFundMe page says, “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.”

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