Girl, 17, creates dolls with medical conditions so all kids feel represented

Having grown up in a world of Barbie and Ken, we are all too familiar with how toys and fairy-tales can set the beauty paradigms that kids aspire to achieve when they’re older.

Consequently, anyone who strays from this stereotype risks feeling that they are not good enough as they are and falls prey to a lifetime of low self-esteem.

However, one hero teen is changing the narrative, so all children feel represented.

Put your hands together for Ariella Pacheco, who is creating bespoke dolls for kids with rare medical conditions, so that they can connect with a doll who looks like them.

[Credit: Bill Wechter/ The San Diego Union-Tribune]

The California native said she was inspired by her own experience of picking the doll that looked most like her when her parents would ask her to choose one from a catalogue.

Ariella explained: “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.”

Tapping into both her humanitarian skills and creative streak, the 17-year-old has now designed and sewn dolls for local youths from Fresh Start Surgical Gifts.

The organisation, which provides free surgeries and other medical treatment for children whose families can’t afford it, hopes to continue the partnership with Ariella to help other young people come to terms with their differences in a way that is relatable for them.

[Credit: Bill Wechter/ The San Diego Union-Tribune]

The dolls collection now proudly includes one with a facial birthmark, another with surgical scars, a third with a misaligned jaw and a fourth with cranial differences.

Zulema Gillett, 21, was thrilled to have been one of the recipients of the dolls and says she can “relate” to the doll which has been depicted with Goldenhar syndrome – a rare congenital condition characterised by abnormal development of the eye, ear and spine.

She said: “Who doesn’t want a doll that looks like them that they could relate to? It’s really nice and very thoughtful.”

[Credit: Bill Wechter/ The San Diego Union-Tribune]

Having been bullied as a child, Zulema has turned her life around thanks to the Fresh Start programme and now hopes to study biology so she can work as a biologist.

Continuing on her theme to make the dolls as unique as possible, Ariella found out each individual’s favourite sports and hobbies, as well as their favourite colours, then together with YouTube tutorials set about making the brilliant mini-mes.

Ariella added: “I hope they’re really excited with them. The whole time I was trying to put as much love into it as I could and hoped they represented each child faithfully.”