Amy Jandrisevits used to be a social worker in a pediatric oncology unit, where she often helped children express themselves with dolls.
“Dolls are therapeutic in so many ways -- ways that I'm not sure we fully understand,” Jandrisevits wrote online. “(But) one day I realized that the dolls’ thick hair and perfect health were doing the kids I was working with a disservice, as they were often faced with a wide variety of physical challenges. Many kids have never have had the opportunity to see their sweet faces reflected in a doll.”
An idea was born.
First, Jandrisevits started making nontraditional Raggedy Ann dolls.
Her work started spreading through word of mouth, and then a woman whose daughter had just had her leg amputated contacted Jandrisevits, asking if she could make a special doll just for her.
“It was like lightning in a jar,” Jandrisevits said. “In the past four years, I’ve personally made over 300 dolls, and there are a lot of people still on (a) wait list.”
Watch as one of the recipients opens up her new doll, and try not to tear up.
Usually, parents or caregivers will pay to cover the cost, which is about $100 to create one doll.
“When they can’t afford it, I’ll find a way to cover it myself,” Jandrisevits said on her GoFundMe site. “Whatever it costs, whatever I have to do, I’m going to get a doll in the hands of these children. This isn’t just a business. It’s the right thing to do.”
The goal of her crowdfunding campaign is to help pay for materials and shipping to cover the cost of dolls for those who can’t afford them. Any remaining funds will be used toward turning the “A Doll Like Me” concept into an official nonprofit organization.
Jandrisevits also has partnered with a children's hospital in Wisconsin, near where she lives, to identify kids who might benefit from having a comfort doll.
Flipping through her Facebook page, you can see she’s made dolls for children with burn injuries, missing limbs and other skin and neurological differences.
Jandrisevits has gotten a flood of media attention recently, and posted an update on her GoFundMe, saying orders have increased exponentially.
“On my dining room at this very moment are two dolls heading to kids in hospice and, because of YOU, the families can feel and see what kindness looks like. For that I am grateful and humbled. Thank you for allowing me to tell families that these have already been paid for -- and thank you for allowing families to experience love and acceptance from strangers.”
At last check, her campaign was close to its $115,000 goal.
“I have always been disappointed in the lack of diversity in dolls,” Jandrisevits wrote online. “So, as my mom taught me, if you don't like it, do something about it!”