Who would have thought that a grandfather suffering from vitiligo can create dolls to help boost the confidence of children suffering from the same affliction? João Stanganelli Jr. made it all happen.
This man lived with the condition for decades and dealing with the disease became a permanent aspect of his life. One day, he crocheted a doll of himself to give to his granddaughter. Then a business idea came into his mind when he gifted the doll to Isabella, his granddaughter.
With the help of social media, “Amigurumi da Lena” is now a flourishing business where customers show their appreciation to Stangenelli’s line of handmade, crocheted dolls. What started as a crocheted doll gifted to a child with skin discolorization has transformed into an inclusive brand representing all kinds of people.
Inspired after retirement
Early on, Stanganelli started experiencing complications in an already long-term health condition. But this wasn’t related to his rare condition. Retirement was now part of his plans and he wanted to have a new hobby. His wife made a suggestion that he learn how to crochet.
Usually a woman’s hobby, he decided to take the challenge. With the learning experience, he also went through soreness in his hands, back, and neck. But it only took just a few days for him to master the craft.
He never would have imagined but Stanganelli was pretty good with crocheting. Because of his well-crafted dolls, it didn’t take long for people to notice his work. Word spread around and, eventually, he started getting custom requests from the parents of kids who had vitiligo. Even adults wanted to see representations of themselves in Stanganelli’s handiwork.
Later, he started getting custom requests for kids suffering from other medical conditions as well. Today, Stanganelli has crocheted dolls with psoriasis, alopecia, mobility impairments, and vision impairments. He also started to gain national exposure as he appeared in many chat shows. Children advocates have also praised his mission of inclusiveness.
A pigment disorder
Vitiligo is a skin affliction that affects about 3% of people. Sadly, those who suffer from the disorder often develop feelings of embarrassment, social isolation, and shame. It’s only in recent years that notable toymakers have started including greater representation in terms of dolls. When it comes to vitiligo, the line-up is non-existent.
Stanganelli himself lived with this patchy and discolored skin for forty years. But he is a survivor as he learned in the past that self-esteem doesn’t need to suffer just because of his vitiligo. He believes that the spots he has are beautiful. The thing that more are the flaws in the character of people.
There’s no argument about greater representation for the less fortunate but what is more important, particularly in childhood, is the lack of it. This could have long-term detrimental effects on a child’s sense of esteem and belonging. A child’s playthings are essential to their sense of identity.
To help with this, several organizations created lesson plans involving the use of dolls for kids as early as preschool. Now, because of Stanganelli, children can see reflections of themselves in their collections. This could hopefully bolster feelings of belonging and pride while playing.