This doll maker gives every child a custom, handmade doll that looks exactly like them
Photos courtesy of Amy Jandrisevits
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Growing up, the kinds of toys you play with can make all the difference. When I was a child, I always felt like the way I looked was wrong because there were no dolls, cartoon characters, or actresses that looked like me. Thankfully, things are changing. Bigger companies like Mattel are now producing dolls in different shapes, genders, and skin tones.

But gaps in the market still exist, especially for kids with special needs, physical disabilities, and skin disorders. That's where Amy Jandrisevits comes in. With her A Doll Like Me line, Amy makes it her personal mission to make custom dolls for kids who typically don't see themselves on store shelves. For some of these children, seeing themselves in human likeness is life-changing.

Photo courtesy of Amy Jandrisevits

As a former pediatric oncology social worker, Amy used play therapy in order to help children adjust to situations that felt out of their control. This was difficult to do when none of the dolls she had access to looked like the children she worked with.

"Play therapy is how kids work through all of that, and dolls are an integral part of the process," Amy says. "For someone who doesn't have the privilege of seeing him or herself in the places that matter, a doll that looks like them can be so validating."

Amy's childhood love of dolls combined with her passion for social work have allowed her to turn her A Doll Like Me campaign into a nonprofit, something she never could have imagined. She's sure that her 8-year-old self would be thrilled at the thought of using dolls to change a narrative for so many children.

Photo courtesy of Amy Jandrisevits

"I am a doll-maker who feels that every child, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, medical issue, or body type, should look into the sweet face of a doll and see their own," she writes on the GoFundMe page for her project. "I talk a lot about changing the narrative, changing who we see and how we see them. Imagine what representation and inclusion look like from a child's perspective. When they see themselves in the places that matter, that becomes an inclusive message, and that is what shapes a child's self-concept. Diversity and representation in dolls can be a game changer for children."

Amy is doing her part to make sure every child – ones with limb differences, albinism, cancer, birthmarks, scars, burns – feels valued. Her goal is to normalize, represent, and validate, and at a very basic level, to offer something that is soft and cuddly and provides comfort when a child needs it most.

Photo courtesy of Amy Jandrisevits

To date, Amy has made over 450 dolls and every single story is as heartwarming as the next. Dolls are typically requested by parents or caregivers, but in recent years, Amy has received requests from doctors and teachers, because they realize the therapeutic value in play. And thanks to its nonprofit status and donations from GoFundMe, not one family has had to pay for their own doll.

"Sometimes I know that the child who is about to receive the doll is living on borrowed time and when he or she dies, this is going to be even more important for their family."

Amy says that she never takes this doll-making opportunity for granted and she often uses her platform to talk about what inclusion and representation look like for a child. She believes that it is her personal obligation to advocate for the children that she is privileged to know.

"We all bring a skillset to the table and we need to understand that sometimes small gestures impact other people in ways we cannot begin to fathom. We have a multitude of reasons to NOT do something – 'I'm too busy, broke, old, young, sick, afraid' – but there are even more reasons why we CAN, and should, do something."

Photo courtesy of Amy Jandrisevits

Donate to Amy's GoFundMe and help a child see themselves as they are through a hand-crafted doll.

Helping someone in need is as easy as a click away. Check out our fundraising toolkit and start a GoFundMe that gives back to your community.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

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