Amy Jandrisevits loves making kids smile. Back in 2015, a mother whose child had a leg amputated asked Jandrisevits, an experienced doll maker, if she would create a look alike doll for her daughter.
Jandrisevits posted a picture of the special doll on social media. Before long, she had a long list of orders for special dolls that celebrated all sorts of bodies.
“Differences make kids feel isolated and judged,” Jandrisevits, 46, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “With the doll, a child sees, ‘I am not the only one who looks this way…and beautiful enough to be a doll.’”
To date, Jandrisevits has crafted nearly 400 of these dolls. Each made with love in her Wisconsin home. Every doll Amy makes is designed to look like a specific child. Many of the dolls are sponsored through A Doll Like Me on GoFundMe, as they are quite expensive to make. They cost about $100.
Right now there’s a two year waiting list. Jandrisevits makes each of the dolls herself with some help from her mother and a close friend. Terminally ill children jump to the front of the line.
“I am invited to such an intimate part of families’ lives,” she says. “I love that connection.”
A heart for the most vulnerable
This beautiful compassion was what drew Jandrisevits to her previous career. She used to work as a pediatric oncology social worker over twenty years ago. During her time at that job, she noticed none of the dolls in the hospital looked like the patients. She believed that dolls with surgery scars, bald heads and missing limbs would help the children feel more “normal”.
“I thought,” she says, “these kids need something that looks like they do.”
Brown birthmarks cover 2-year-old Keagan Cameron’s body. They’re the result of a rare skin condition. His doll, Chip, a doll covered in brown spots. Keagan drags Chip with him everywhere he goes.
“When kids ask, I say Keagan has chocolate chip syndrome, from eating too many,” says Keagan’s mom, Joy Cameron. “I want Keagan to know it’s okay to be different.”
Joy can’t believe that her son is able to have such a doll. “I thought that was just the most amazing thing,” she says. “This woman is so incredible and everything comes from the heart.”
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