It’s hard growing up as a kid who looks “different.” People stare, whisper and sometimes ask blunt questions you don’t quite know how to answer. They haven’t seen anyone like you before — and really, neither have you.
Amy Jandrisevits, a former pediatric oncology social worker, wants to change that. She makes dolls for kids with all kinds of challenges — dermatological conditions, feeding tubes, limb differences, burn injuries and more.
Working under the name “A Doll Like Me,” Jandrisevits customizes each doll to include personal details that match its future owner, as you can see in this photo posted to the A Doll Like Me Facebook page, featuring a little boy who is radiating joy as he clutches his plush mini-me.
“It is a really hard sell to tell a kid, ‘You are perfect just the way you are,’ and to build self-esteem that way but never offer them anything that looks like them,” Jandrisevits told Today Parents. “We are going to change that story.”
On her GoFundMe page, Jandrisevits writes that she used dolls in play therapy for her young cancer patients, but the toys bugged her. Their healthy-looking bodies and full heads of hair contrasted sharply with the bodies of the kids she was trying to help.
After moving on from that job, she started making dolls. A friend asked her to make a doll for a transgender child. Then a woman approached Jandrisevits about making a doll that matched her daughter, who’d recently lost a leg. Things took off from there.
Now Jandrisevits has made more than 300 custom dolls, like the one in this Facebook photo of a happy baby dressed to match her sweet doll:
Jandrisevits charges about $100 for a custom-made doll, including shipping. If the price is too steep for a potential customer, she’ll pay what they can’t. She studies photos provided by the families to try to match the kids as much as possible, right down to a scar or a tracheostomy tube.
The GoFundMe helps Jandrisevits pay for materials and ship dolls to needy families. She’s also working with a local children’s hospital — she lives near Milwaukee — and wants A Doll Like Me to become officially non-profit.
“Whatever it costs, whatever I have to do, I’m going to get a doll in the hands of these children,” she writes.
If you aren’t already clutching a Kleenex at the goodness of it all, take a gander at the video below, posted to the ABC Localish Facebook page.
And here’s that GoFundMe link again in case you’d like to donate!