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.’”
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 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.
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
image-3480 1 of 14
Early Protoype of a Doll 2 of 14Connie says her goal is to eventually be able to let people custom order hair, skin and eye color.
Jane 3 of 14Prototype for Jane who has very fair skin, light blue eyes, short black hair and bangs.
First Painted Model 4 of 14It's so fun to follow Connie's progress on her Dolls For Downs Facebook page. She posts photos of each doll as it comes to life and Connie's excitement about the whole process is infectious.
Creating the Heart Surgery Scar 5 of 14It is said that approximately 45% of babies with Down syndrome are born with a congenital heart defect. Many of these defects require corrective surgery. That's why the doll comes with the option of a heart scar.
Heart Surgery Scar 6 of 14The heart surgery scar is hand painted on the doll and, as many parents of kids with Down syndrome know, looks a lot like the scars on their children.
Nearly Finished 7 of 14Prototype
So Sweet 8 of 14How cute are these dolls?
Matty 9 of 14This is the proto-type for the Matty doll. You can purchase him on the Dolls for Downs website for $75.
Another Prototype 10 of 14You can find nearly every hair, eye, skin combination on the Dolls for Downs website.
Midori 11 of 14Proto-type for the Midori doll. Midori will have very fair skin, light brown eyes and long dark hair. You can purchase her on the Dolls for Downs website for $75.
Doll Feet. 12 of 14Sweet little feet.
Dressed Prototypes 13 of 14Headed for the factory!
The Two Hannah’s 14 of 14Hannah and her Hannah doll.
You can also find Monica on her personal blog, The Girl Who.
Read more from Monica on Babble:
- Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo (PHOTOS)
- The 20 Worst Parenting Overshares on Facebook
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- 10 Hilarious Comics About The Internet That Are LOL Funny
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