A Doll Like Me was born out of the idea that all children are unique and beautiful, and everyone deserves to look into the sweet face of a doll and see their own. For many years I worked in pediatric oncology and when I did play therapy with the children in the hospital, I noticed the incredible gap in the toy market. You cannot expect a child of color who lost his hair to connect with a blonde haired, fair skinned doll; and since doll play is an essential part of therapy, I realized that it did kids a disservice.
Several years later, I was making dolls casually and was asked to make a doll for a little girl whose leg had been amputated. I never intended on starting a business, but through social media, people requested similar dolls and in two months I had 200 doll orders! It shows you how desperate parents are to give their child something that resembles them. When we talk about representation and inclusion, we have to understand the psychological impact that this has on children – particularly children who do not see themselves in the media or books or in toys.
As a global community, we have to decide that this matters – that the mental and emotional health of children is equally as important as physical health. To date, I have made nearly 400 dolls for children around the world – as far away as Egypt and Guatemala. The majority of my dolls are funded through my my GoFundMe campaign – with perfect strangers deciding that they also feel this is an important part of a child’s adjustment and comfort. My dolls have expanded from limb and hand differences to albinism, birthmarks and scars, medical equipment, and facial anomalies.
Much to my surprise (and delight), my dolls have become a part of a larger narrative – drawing attention from People Magazine, Oprah Magazine, Google, and disability advocacy groups. The discussion on the table is this – how are we going to change WHO is seen and HOW they are seen? If millions of children can’t look into the face of a doll and see their own, what are we going to do to close this gap – particularly for children who we know could benefit therapeutically.
This is truly a labor of love and each doll tells a story – every one as valuable as the next. I believe that the toy market is at a place where the public is not just requesting something different, but is desperate for something different. I believe that we cannot tell children that they are perfect and beautiful and follow it with - but you’ll never see a toy that looks like you. We, the global community, have an opportunity to change the narrative in a huge way for so many children. Wasn’t it Jane Goodall who said that “the greatest danger to our future is apathy?”
This giving Tuesday, please consider making a tax deductible donation to A Doll Like Me so that together we can make dolls available to kids who need them.