Amy Jandrisevits has joined hands with a children's hospital to make customized look-alike dolls for children.
As a child growing up, it's important to have toys, cartoon characters, and actors you can identify with. It helps boost self-confidence and makes you feel normal. For kids with disabilities, there's not a lot of fictional characters or toys they can associate with and this makes them conscious of their own appearances. Amy Jandrisevits is keen to rectify this. Jandrisevits, a doll maker, is creating dolls that kids with disabilities can relate to. She has started 'A Doll Like Me,' an initiative to make customized dolls for kids. Jandrisevits says dolls are "therapeutic, validating, and comforting" and she is eager to make children experience that.
"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," she wrote on the GoFundMe page for her project. "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." She's doing her part to make sure every child — wheelchair, skin marks, scars, and all — has a place at the table."
It all started when Jandrisevits served as a pediatric oncology social worker. She often engaged with children and used play therapy as a way to help them. She felt that the kids couldn't relate to any of the dolls that were accessible to them. "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?" While toy companies have become more exclusive and introduced more range as far as skin-colored, there's still a lot of areas it needs to address. She added that kids are conditioned to seeing dolls and accepting those ideals as the norm which made them feel excluded.
She started out by making dolls at home, working on her dining room table. She started customized dolls for the kids that she played with. In most cases, the parents or the caregiver buy the doll from her but in other cases, she sends the kid the doll for free. "It's that important. If we truly want to talk about the overall health of a child, we need to promote a healthy and positive self-identity," said Jandrisevits. She has now joined hands with children's hospitals to identify kids that could do with a doll that looks like them. She is raising money through a GoFundMe fundraiser to buy the materials required for her to make the dolls that can help the children.
"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 think that a doll is a tangible way to show kindness." Recently, Amy made a doll for a 5-year-old kid with many scars. She was contacted by Payton Haynes' teacher and was given as a gift from a group of second-graders. All those present felt it was an incredibly touching moment as Payton identified with the doll and its scars. “Payton was beside himself when he opened it. It was the cutest thing ever,” said school teacher Elisabeth Prendergast. “He said, ‘Hey, he has my scars!’ That was his initial reaction. He knew those were his scars. He smiled from ear to ear.”
If you want to help Amy Jandrisevits make more dolls for children, you can visit her GoFundMe page here and make a donation.