Joao Stanganelli has lived with vitiligo, a condition that results in the loss of skin color in blotches, for nearly half his life. The condition occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. Although not life-threatening and generally not painful, the altered appearance it causes can make people feel self-conscious or struggle with their self-esteem.
With that in mind, the Brazilian grandfather decided to create dolls with vitiligo to help children with the condition develop a positive self-image. He was inspired, in part, to leave something behind for his grandaughter to remember him by.
He picked up crocheting in just five days after a challenge from his wife, and the doll turned out beautifully. Here he is showcasing that first doll on his Instagram page:
After a photo of his unique crocheted doll circulated, Stanganelli began to receive requests to make personalized dolls with a variety of differences, including dolls with hearing aids and wheelchairs.
He’s been overwhelmed by the gratitude he has received from children and parents, he says. The dolls represent a chance for people living with disabilities and illness to see themselves represented in a positive light.
Here’s an image from Stanganelli’s Instagram of him with dolls that have alopecia, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and vitiligo:
When it comes to living with vitiligo, Stanganelli has no problem with self-acceptance.
“The spots I have are beautiful,” he told CTV News. “What hurts me are the flaws in peoples’ characters.”
Stanganelli can be reached for orders via his Facebook page under the name Amigurumi da Lena, where he lists his contact information, including a phone number; he prefers WhatsApp for orders (don’t forget to add the country code, +55, for Brazil).
Here’s a picture from his Instagram that shows him making one of the dolls:
He’s not the only one offering cute, handmade dolls that normalize children’s differences.
A Doll Like Me was created by Amy Jandrisevits to give kids with disabilities and other differences the ability to see themselves represented in a doll. When they get that opportunity, the effect can be profound.
“In an ideal world, limb difference, body type, medical condition, birthmarks and hand differences would be as accepted as all of the other things that make us unique,” Jandrisevits says on her Facebook “About Me” section. “Until then, kids might need a little extra coaching … and something that will help them feel proud of who they are. THAT is why I make dolls. Dolls touch a place in kids that medicine can’t.”
In one case, a child had one small and one fully-developed hand, and received a Doll Like Me that reflected this.
“The little guy said, ‘My doll has a baby hand and I have a baby hand. My doll has a big hand and I have a big hand,'” Jandrisvetis told NBC’s Today. “He can look into the face of his doll and see that is OK.”
It’s great that these kids can now see themselves in their dolls. How inspiring!