A vast majority of young girls love dolls. While Ariella Pacheco was growing up, she had this love for dolls too. Since kids usually bond properly with dolls that look like them, the doll she chose looked like something she can refer to as her sister.
Pacheco, a senior at Cathedral Catholic High School, revealed in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribute that:
She looked like me and I felt there was a piece of me in her. You see yourself in a doll and it’s really special to have that connection.Pacheco
Children find connection and comfort interacting with dolls reflecting their own image, coupled with their cultural and racial heritage, but until of recent, it has been difficult finding diversity while shopping for them.
While mass-market selections have become increasingly inclusive in recent years, some segments of the population continue to be excluded. Children whose rare medical conditions render their appearances different from the norm have little to no hope of finding their likeness at a toy store or even online.
Knowing just how important making that very personal connection could be for a child gave Pacheco an idea.
Inspired by Milwaukee doll designer Amy Jandrisevits, whose “A Doll Like Me” project makes custom-designed dolls for children with disabilities, Pacheco decided that for her annual service project for her school’s National Honor Society chapter, she’d design and sew unique dolls to donate to children with rare medical conditions.
To find the kids she hoped to create unique dolls for, Pacheco partnered with Fresh Start Surgical Gifts in Carlsbad, California, a charitable organization that provides surgical and medical treatment free of charge to children who need it.
Pacheco was sent pictures and profiles for a number of potential doll subjects from the ranks of Fresh Start’s clients. She eventually narrowed the field to four. Michelle Pius, Fresh Start’s chief development officer was taken aback by the final product.
“It was a very kind and big-hearted gesture on her part to make dolls that will help a child feel like they’re not alone,” she said.