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Teen Creates Custom Dolls For Children With Physical Differences To Help Them Feel Seen


One teenager’s senior project has turned into a deeply meaningful moment for some excited children.

Ariella Pacheco grew up with a beloved American Girl doll that closely resembled her. As she got older, she realized that there are a lot of kids out there with special conditions that can’t find a doll on store shelves that looks like them. Their unique physical characteristics aren’t found in mass-made dolls.

As a service project for the National Honor Society, Ariella decided to do something about it. She handmade custom dolls for four recipients: one with a port-wine stain birthmark, one with surgical scars, one with a jaw alignment issue, and one with face and cranial differences. Ariella sewed the dolls herself, having to adjust to this year’s events like anyone else.

“I began this project before, so I was supposed to have classmates helping me. But that all shifted, and so I forged ahead on my own,” Ariella told The Doctors. I reached out to Fresh Start, a charitable organization that provides free surgeries for children. They were so open in receiving.”

“They gave me four children right away, so then I had my participants and I started.”

Ariella had never made a doll or anything like it, so it took some serious effort. “It took a lot of work and tutorials. YouTube was super helpful. I had sewn most of my life. It was something that I really loved to do, so that wasn’t new to me. But the whole doll making process was very new,” she explained.

It took her some time, but she was able to make the dolls and their clothes. Her recipients absolutely loved how they came out. For Ariella, that meant her mission had succeeded.

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