Other brands, like My Sibling, have been making dolls of both genders for over a decade.
When American Girl announced it would launch its first-ever 18-inch boy doll (though it’s worth noting that they’ve long carried boy “Bittie Babies” and a few of the pets may also be male …), the response ranged from “It’s about time!” to “Wait … it’s already been done!”
Logan Everett, the first 18 inch boy doll from American Girl. American Girl | Mattel
And of course, both are true. To many parents, it’s great news that American Girl is finally realizing that not only do plenty of boys want to play with dolls—particularly dolls that “look” like them—but also plenty of girls want to have dolls that reflect their boy playmates or family members. However, other parents know that the void American Girl’s girl-only dolls left for so long has been filled in other ways, by other toys.
One of the most notable was with dolls like My Sibling and My Pal. These dolls, however, have never just been about filling a void—they’re about making a difference.
Their creator, Loretta Rose Boronat, a life-long seamstress, doll-clothes maker, and special-ed teacher, came up with the idea for My Sibling dolls (which included girl and boy dolls) after feeling frustrated by the lack of resources to help her family (and other families) as they navigated her son’s autism. Her love of her son, of making doll clothes and her passion for autism advocacy combined into one idea: creating boy and girl dolls with “stories to tell.”
When she launched her company in 2006, Loretta dreamed that these dolls would not only “educate the public, and lend support to children who have a sibling [or friend or classmate] with developmental differences,” but would “would be the companion they could relate to, find comfort in, and call a friend.”
But Loretta’s mission didn’t end there. She realized she wanted actual dolls that represented a variety of children with a variety of needs and children going through a variety of things. So, so created the My Pals line to help kids learn about everything from autism awareness to “going green” to patriotism to understanding the eucharist—all through play!
The good news and good work of these dolls doesn’t only extend to children however. Not only does Loretta continue to support autism research, but her company has made it a point to hire adults with disabilities, offering “rewarding and interesting” positions based on ability level, rounding out the company’s mission to raise awareness and come alongside people in word, in deed, and in doll.
All of this reflects Loretta’s faith, which she credits with giving her “strength and inspiration.” Both of which are evident in the work Loretta does and in the life she leads.
Loretta’s life has dealt its share of difficulties. She was diagnosed with cancer at the same time her then three-year-old (and third child) “was falling off the edge of earth” with autism and while caring for a newborn.
“Faith,” Loretta says, “carried me through that.”
And her experience—along with her continued challenges battling cancer and raising a child with special needs—has shaped everything from the prayer she makes part of her business practice to the products she sells. In fact, the “eucharist doll” was inspired from her years teaching CCD and making First Communion dresses for American Girl dolls (before she started her own company).
Loretta’s heart broke when she realized “many children would love to have a doll for their First Communion—both boys and girls—but they couldn’t afford American Girl.” At their website, American Girl dolls tend to start at about $60 for a standard doll, and can go as high as $115.
So, Loretta says, “When I finally was able to start the My Pals brand I knew the eucharist doll would be the first character I was going to make.” She sells the doll in the Communion outfit, and makes it affordable for families.
Loretta tells us that her life would be “impossible without faith.” And in many ways, so would her work. After all, her dream of creating dolls that raised awareness and helped kids learn about and love each other better was no small thing. But her faith and her passion and her experience have come together to create a beautiful product. At first, one that merely filled a void left by American Girls, but now one doing its own good work.
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