Hello, could you present yourself and your family?
My name is Connie Feda and I am married with 6 children. My husband, Ken, works for a non-profit that provides services for adults with disabilities. My oldest daughter, Tatyanna Fox, is 25 and an occupational therapist and co-designer of the clothing line that we are working on. I have two sons, Sergey Fox, 26, who was adopted from Russia at the age of 6. He has physical disabilities and now lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. My son, Addison Fox,23, is a software developer. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin. My second daughter, Midori Fox,21, lives with her sister in Elyria, Ohio. She is a college student.
Hannah is 14. She loves Special Olympics, television and movies, cards and games. She also has Down Syndrome. Theresa is 11. She plays the piano and is a volunteer with Special Olympics. She helps with swimming, soccer, bocce, bowling, basketball and ice skating. We have 2 dogs and a turtle.
You choose to make a new model for dolls, could you explain us why did you choose to do so? Did they were a lake is this matter, a need from your children?
I chose to make a new model of doll for Down Syndrome because when Hannah, was 8 years old, she was looking at a magazine and said, "there are no dolls that look like me."
I started to look on the Internet and all the dolls that I found had over expressed characteristics of Down Syndrome. I felt that when those other dolls were made, they tried very hard to be fair to all the features but that the result was a doll that was not very beautiful. I really wanted to make something that, as Hannah said, looked like her. That meant that the doll needed to have a positive personality, be pretty but also be true to the features of Down Syndrome.
You begin to built dolls for down, could you explain us what were you need? What was the process, your difficulties to produce them?
The first big problem was finding a producer of dolls that I could work with who would also be willing to teach me important things about how dolls are made. I spent many hours on the internet and reading articles about dolls. Even though I had four girls living in my house and had three sisters, I never gave much thought to how our doll friends came to be produced.
I knew in my mind what I wanted the doll to be but I didn't have the artistic talent to design her myself. The factory assigned me a sculptor who was very talented but because of the language difference, I could not explain the nuance of my project. After many months, the factory gave me the contact information for Karen Scott, a very talented doll sculptor in the United States. She was able to understand the little changes that eventually gave our doll the personality that we were looking for.
Then, of course, was money. I did not start out as a business woman, but as a mother. I found ways to sell items or raise money, but finally had to turn to Kickstarter to get enough money to finish paying for the molds. Once I had a proto type, I was able to pre-sell the dolls to cover the production costs. This little project became a loved idea of hundreds of people across the world.
What are the specifics that you develop doing the Down dolls ?
I wanted our doll to be as accurate as possible and as beautiful as possible. Some traits that are part of Down Syndrome have become to me endearing. When I see a child with these traits, I feel an automatic smile in my heart. I wanted to make certain that these traits were visible in our doll. So, our dolls arms and legs are a little bit shorter. The eyes are almond shaped and the bridge of the nose is flatter and smaller. The ears are lower set and not as large as a typical child's. One hand is signing, "I Love You" in ASL. Both of the feet have a sandal gap space between the first 2 toes. The belly is a little stockier and pudgy. And of course, there is an option for a heart repair scar as so many children with Down Syndrome have heart surgery.
What were the specials focuses on the construction of the body?
My daughter is an Occupational Therapist and together we tried to make this doll as functional as we could so that children could use it as a very natural teaching toy. To make it usable in therapy situations, we made her 100% vinyl so that she could be easily cleaned. Her joints are very deep. This makes it possible for the arms and legs to move in all directions, for easier dressing. This will also help to keep water out of them should she go swimming. We upgraded the wig so that it could be brushed. The clothing has big buttons, snaps, zippers and ties to help with fine motor skills. All accessories are being designed with this model in mind because we hope that the skills can translate to real life.
When did you produce the first doll for down?
The project was started nearly 5 years ago and the first vinyl dolls from the porcelain proto types will be delivered to me in 10 days! We are very excited in Pittsburgh!
Are you trying to make new one? How Many ?
I would eventually like to make a second Down Syndrome mold, a baby with Down Syndrome. Also I would like to make dolls with other disabilities.
The first production is 1,000 dolls and over 700 are spoken for already. We are preparing to make a second run of the dolls in the spring.
Are they successful?
I believe that they are successful because they have made Hannah happy and that was the only success that I was looking for. Judging from the many emails that I get every day, there will be many hearts touched by this project and that is how I measure success.
Could we buy them?
Yes, you can buy them. I am looking for a European distributor, but in the meantime, they are can be shipped from the US.
How much are they?
They are $75 US + shipping.
Are you proud of your initiative?
I am not so much proud of what I have done as I am humbled by the hundreds of people that I've encountered on this journey. I have met some extraordinary young people and met many parents who are walking my path. It has been marvelous to watch Hannah blossom during this process to become an ambassador for our little dolls.
What do you expect doing these dolls?
My dream for these little dolls would be that first and foremost, they are a dear friend to the child that receives them. Second, I'd like to see these dolls reach typically developing children. Perhaps they could start to see our children as people first, disability second. It's a big job for a little doll, but I think that children learn through play, so playing with something makes it part of their landscape. I also hope that therapists might use our dolls to make their jobs a little more fun.
Do you have a message to relay?
Our kids are incredible, intelligent, beautiful, people with hopes, dreams and aspirations. They need us to encourage and support those efforts and we need them to show us how to live as better people.