<i>The boy and girl dolls come in a variety of skin, eye, and hair colors</i>Her mission is simple: represent children with disabilities in an honest, favorable light and give kids with disabilities a friend for life.
Connie Feda is certainly doing that. The Pittsburgh mom to 13-year-old Hannah described to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette the day her daughter, who has Down syndrome, was flipping through a doll magazine in search of a doll that looked like her. "There's no doll that looks like me." So Feda, mother of six kids ranging in age from 10 to 25, became determined to find a doll that looks like Hannah. But she couldn't find anything. "Nobody had any dolls that were at all attractive," Feda, 49, tells the newspaper. "So we said, 'Hey, let's just make one.'"
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Make one she did. And ended up starting a business in the process. Feda worked with a doll sculptor in Michigan and a manufacturer in China to design 16 male and female versions of dolls with Down syndrome's physical characteristics, in a variety of eye and hair and skin colors.
The dolls - available for $75 now at dollsfordowns.org (and starting May 1 at extraspecialdolls.com) - are already in high demand, with hundreds of pre-orders placed since March 1st. The dolls are 18 inches tall, made of vinyl and the clothes will have large buttons to make it easier to dress and undress the dolls, since children with Down syndrome often have weak muscle tone. The dolls will also have the option of coming with plastic clothes so they can be used in a sterile hospital setting. Two prototypes for the dolls arrived at the Feda household last month. Matty, the boy doll, has short blond hair and, on his chest, he has a scar that looks like the one Hannah has from her surgery. Hannah, the girl doll, has dark hair just like Hannah, the girl. The doll has several of the features of Down syndrome - a crease on her palms, a "sandal gap," between her big and second toes and a flattened facial profile. Feda is amazed by the success of the dolls. Orders have come in from around the world and not just from the parents of children with Down syndrome. The first order came from the friend of a child with Down syndrome in Kansas. The first grader emailed that she wanted her dolls to have a similar friend. "When I got this email, I bawled my eyes out," Feda says. Children with Down syndrome know they look different from children without it. That's why the dolls are so fantastic. "It just gives them an identifier, that they have something that looks like them, that they can play with, and be proud of and happy and carry around." says Karen Pool, general manager for TFH USA Special Needs Toys.
<i>Hannah with her doll</i>
Feda said that when the doll prototypes finally arrived last month, she couldn't help herself; she cried."Nothing could prepare me for how breathtakingly beautiful this doll is, top to bottom, when I took her out of the box," she said. Finally. A doll that looks just like Hannah; beautiful.
All photos used with permission from Connie Freda
- By Monica Bielanko
Follow Monica at Babble
To check out more inspirational photos of Connie's dolls with Down syndrome, visit Babble!
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