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A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Doll Drive

This was originally posted by Heather to Dorothy’s Holiday Doll Drive for dolls of color in 2021. Dorothy is Heather’s grandmother, not our daughter Dottie. Below is an edited version.

Hello! So you may all have caught on a little about how I feel about dolls. I truly believe in dolls, but not any particular kind or brand of doll. The reality is that people have made dolls out of corncobs, spoons, paper and Popsicle sticks. I believe in Wilson! You remember Tom Hanks (in the movie Castaway) on the beach with his DOLL right?

And that moment I think rang so true with audiences because on some level we know that a doll can make us more resilient. Mostly though I believe that dolls are the best kind of play and that play is essential to being human.

I know you get it because you’re here.

So last January (2021), after years of donating dolls to toy drives I decided to start a drive specifically focused on dolls of color. You all understood how it important it is that children of color have a doll that looks like them… resonates with them. Representation matters.

Some of you I’ve talked to about the difficulties I’ve had in sourcing dolls of color over the last 30 years. One of the things I learned early on was that if I waited till November to make my purchases for the toy drive it could be difficult to find them. This shortage surprised me. Wouldn’t a store bring in more dolls of color for the holidays? It also made me realize if I was purchasing right before Christmas, I was taking a doll that parent of color might want to purchase for their family. That was clearly wrong and I started making sure that I had my donations purchased by the end of August. This was a huge part of the reason why I started the drive fairly shortly after Christmas (2020).

New Things I’ve Learned

In 2020 I didn’t get the things done that I wanted to for the toy drives. On Christmas Eve I decided to offer 4 dolls to my local Buy Nothing group. That group posts pictures of items they no longer have use for and offers them to others. I figured that it would just be kind of neighborly to offer dolls as it’s easy to be short a gift on Christmas Eve. It was the first time I ever heard from someone what the kid thought of the doll they received, or saw a picture of the kiddo with the doll. I also had a conversation with someone whose nephew also wanted a doll and why it was important to him. I had never given boy dolls but her story made it so clear how important a doll could be to a boy. I was never against the idea but I hadn’t really thought about it either.

So my husband and I decided this was the year we would do a full on doll drive. Our goal was 101 dolls. We knew we wanted to do both girl and boy dolls. We knew we wanted a wide range of looks. I listened to your input. I felt pretty confident that we would do OK as we had a lot of time yet and because Our Generation had really upped their game. Not perfect, but enough to get what we needed.

But there wasn’t enough of what we needed.

Most folks used the Target Registry vs the Amazon or Walmart one. I think this is in large part because of what Target’s Our Generation offered and the price point. Our Generation offered quite a few more dolls of color than it had in the past and was including boys. Two of the boy dolls were boys of color. Franco with brown skin and smooth textured hair. Tyler with brown skin and a curly textured hair. I really liked the dolls they had, but there was no Asian boy. I already knew that Our Generation tends to sell one Asian Girl design every year. Each year there was a new one and the old Asian girl molds didn’t come back. That was frustrating. Even more frustrating was that the Asian doll never arrived. It might have been supply chain issues. I don’t know. But I can’t give what I can’t purchase which of course highlighted a larger truth – it also means that families of color are unable to buy what isn’t being sold. Which is a much more important thing than my little doll drive.

It reminded me of when I was on a car trip with an African American friend of mine. We were discussing racism and the strange ways that it asserts itself. I mentioned that I had read an article about the difficulties that students of color at the University in Madison WI were having getting their hair cut. There were no salons that served people with African American hair. (This was before 2016. I have no idea if it’s changed.) The students solved it the way people do by exchanging hair styling and cuts between them. My friend and I were talking about the barriers to starting black owned businesses and other associated issues. I expressed confusion why no white business owners were seeing customers they could serve in these students. She said, patiently, it confused her too. It was one of those times where it was very clear to me the difference between knowing something happens and living that situation.

So anyway, back to dolls and my big news.

Alright, back at the doll drive, I’m not only taking in dolls that folks have donated, but I’m also trying to source some of the dolls I feel we’re short on. One of the companies I contacted was My Sibling/My Pal®. It was owned by Loretta Boronat and she had the most beautiful 18 inch boy dolls that came in a variety of hair color/eye color/ and skin tones. We had quite a number of life situations and beliefs in common. I bought several of those beautiful boys for the drive.

Later in the year she contacted me and told me that she had decided to close her business. She wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to purchase more dolls for the drive if we needed. After talking to my husband I called her back and told her I wanted to buy ALL of her remaining inventory. And so began Dandelion Dream Dolls on the web at https://DandelionDreamDolls.com or by phone at 1-888-291-DOLL (3655).

Yes, we did a doll drive (distributed 130 dolls of color and a few other dolls) and started a doll business in 2021.

Dandelion Dream Dolls™ is our doll business. It is all 18 inch boy dolls in a variety of diverse looks. Unfortunately, My Sibling/My Pal® was sold out of several dolls when I purchased including the one that was the most representative of African Americans. That was a problem. So I’ve brought in 3 additional dolls with a different face but the same style body from a different company. I like to think of them as ‘cousins’ of the original dolls. We are very painfully aware that we do not have an Asian boy. I hunted and hunted and hunted but was unable to find a suitable 18 inch Asian boy doll to include. We are looking forward to a manufacturing run to restock old looks and see what we can arrange for new ones. This is what excites most about owning this company. We will have so much more flexibility with what we can offer in the future and I’m so excited about talking to the manufacturer to see what we can do together.

I’m just twitterpated right now! I always wanted a doll company but it seemed like a silly dream that could never happen. I can’t believe that I’m selling the dolls I think are the most beautiful dolls in the world. I feel so proud of the history of these dolls at My Sibling and I’m humbled by the opportunity in front of me.

This is a family business. Keith is all in. Dottie is all in. I bet you can guess what we what talk about all the time! It’s very clear to Keith and I how our lives have led us here, and yet we are so surprised.

Please take a look at the website. New items are still being added, but I would love it if you would take a look. Please share it with your friends. And thank you for reading this through to the end. We appreciate you.

Click here → DandelionDreamDolls.com