Meet the Mom Who Makes One-of-a-Kind Dolls for Children with Differences
A Doll Like Me was created to provide toys for children with limb differences, albinism, medical equipment, and more.
Amy Jandrisevits has loved dolls her entire life. She played with them as a little girl, would use them as a learning tool when she was a pediatric oncology social worker, and has even been making her own for 35 years. Originally, she would craft nontraditional Raggedy Ann-esque creations "just for fun." Then, in December 2014, a mom who had seen one of Jandrisevits' creations asked if she could create one to look like her daughter, who had her leg amputated. Jandrisevits' response? "Of course."
That's how her nonprofit A Doll Like Me began, which she simply describes on her GoFundMe as "dolls for kids who will never see themselves on the store shelves." And nearly five years and 400 dolls later, Jandrisevits is busy as ever making these one-of-a-kind designs, which can be ordered on the company's Facebook page. Since that first doll, Jandrisevits has made many different versions, including dolls with limb differences, finger differences, birthmarks, scars, albinism, and medical equipment, among others. "If you've heard of it, I've done it," she says.
Every day, the now stay-at-home-mom of three can be found sitting at her dining room table working away. She says each order starts with a parent sending her a photo of their child along with a description. Jandrisevits says she can spend up to six-to-eight hours just studying the photo and getting to know the recipient. "Some of these situations are so raw," she says. "And they trust me with such valuable information and this piece of their lives that is sometimes difficult."
Then, she gets to work. Although each doll is different, the process from the very first one remains the same. Jandrisevits crafts each and every one by hand—from start to finish. The amount of work, and the high demand, has many people asking Jandrisevits why she hasn't expanded her one-woman show. "It's such a personal thing," Jandrisevits explains. "I think if people read the emails that I get and the heartache and the desperation, I think that it would be a little bit clearer why this isn’t a factory. It was never meant to be like that."
Jandrisevits says there's a lot of personal fulfillment in running A Doll Like Me. "The 10-year-old Amy is probably thrilled that the grown Amy is still getting to do this," she laughs. "Like, what a dream, isn't it? I still get to play with dolls even in adulthood." However, she also admits the endeavor is truly a labor of love. "Some days, I'm not going to lie, I think, 'I'm overwhelmed and this is just too much.' But then I think, 'Where are they going to go?'" She adds, "I'm told often enough how important these dolls are for these kids."
And that is just what keeps Jandrisevits going. Although she notes it's "amazing" how A Doll Like Me has unfolded, she says she's simply doing one thing: filling a need. "One of the things that I think is so important is [that] we all bring something to the table… I think that we all have the capability to fill some kind of a need," she says. "I think it's our obligation to each other to bring whatever skill set we have, and I think we all have one."