When Hannah Feda was 9 years old, she was flipping through a toy catalog and noticed that there were dolls that resembled her younger sister, but none that looked like her. Hannah, who is now 13, has Down syndrome.
Hannah's mother, Connie Feda, then began to look for dolls designed with Down syndrome characteristics but she was displeased with the options already on the market, feeling they weren't adequate reflections. She decided to create a doll for children like Hannah to play with. "As the mom of 6 kids, I was used to juggling," Feda told The Huffington Post via email.
Feda called the project Dolls for Downs. As she explains on Facebook, her mission is to "represent children with disabilities in an honest, favorable light and give kids with disabilities a friend for life." With the help of sculptor Karen Scott, occupational therapists and other parents of children with Down syndrome, Feda was able to create dolls that physically reflect what her daughter and other kids see in the mirror.
“My favorite thing is the hand. Look at them, they’re so cute and pudgy,” Feda told WPXI.
Her hope is that the dolls will provide companionship to their owners -- friends, as she calls them -- while also teaching skills such as eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, and tactile input. "Our clothing is easier to get on [and] has friendlier sized snaps and buttons. ... Kids play naturally, so it's the perfect [toy] to practice essential skills like buttons, snaps, ties and zippers, hair brushing and story telling," Feda explained.
Most importantly, "I want Hannah to see a doll with Down syndrome and see something beautiful, because that's what I see when I look at her," Feda wrote via email.
The first dolls, named Ellie, Nikki, Hannah, Grace and Aziza, are available for preorder on the Dolls for Downs website. Feda hopes to launch the project on May 1st and plans to start a Kickstarter campaign soon to help raise funds.