Grandfather Living With Vitiligo Crochets Inclusive Dolls For Kids With The Skin Condition

by Angela Andaloro

We’re learning more and more about how important inclusivity is for children as they grow up. Seeing themselves represented regardless of skin color, medical conditions, and more can make all the difference for a young person’s self-esteem.

João Stanganelli Junior is helping toward that end. The 64-year-old grandfather has started a crocheting business making dolls, including ones with vitiligo, which he himself has.

Vitiligo is a pretty rare skin condition, affecting between 0.5% and 1% of the population. Those living with vitiligo lose pigmentation in random patches of their skin. While it isn’t physically harmful aside from sun sensitivity, it has been known to have a social stigma and subsequent psychological effects.

João first started noticing he had the condition in his 30s. Since then, it’s become more noticeable. He made his first vitiligo doll for his granddaughter as something to remember her grandfather by. From there, the idea of making them more available began to develop.

A grandfather living with vitiligo is making a difference by crocheting dolls with the skin condition. João Stanganelli Junior began noticing the condition in his 30s. It became more apparent over time.

At 64 years old, João is semiretired from the gastronomy industry due to other health issues. To stay active, he took up crocheting with his wife. He quickly began to enjoy the relaxing hobby.

“At first my fingers and back hurt a lot, today no more,” João told Bored Panda. “I’m not yet retired, I still keep up my old work with food, but much less intensely. At the moment I spend 90% of my time with the dolls. I have many orders.”

João says there’s an almost addictive element to crocheting, once you get past the callouses. He says he began by making a single doll for his granddaughter. He decided to give the doll vitiligo so that she would have something to remember him by.

João then started considering making more dolls with the condition, and from there the idea began to take shape. He started to think about all the different inclusive dolls he could easily create.

João wants the kids who get their hands on the dolls to feel “normal” and like they matter, regardless of what differences they’re living with. As he saw what a difference the dolls he created were making, he started social media accounts to display his work.

João believes his dolls are capable of spreading an important message. “My view of vitiligo seems to me to be very different from the general, I think it is necessary first that you have vitiligo, after this acceptance you choose what you want to do,” he explained.

“I still quote Benjamin Disraeli: ‘Life is too short to be small,'” he continued. “The horrible spots are the spots on the character.” Certainly, he raises excellent points on what it means to grow up feeling different and seeing how others respond to it.

João made a doll for author Tati Santos de Oliveira. Tati’s daughter, Maria Luiza, was 3 years old when they began noticing spots appear on her body. After she was diagnosed with vitiligo, Tati noticed there wasn’t much available to explain the condition to children.

“When I learned of the diagnosis, I sought, in addition to treatment, publications for her to feel represented,” she explained, according to Bored Panda. “I did not find in the market any work on the subject for children. Then it clicked!”

Tati wrote A Menina Feita de Nuvens, or The Girl Made of Clouds, in just two days. “The book tells the story of Maria Luiza and her special secret. She has spots made of clouds. It is a way to treat the acceptance of the disease with delicacy.”

João is a big fan of Tati’s creation and recommends it. He says it is “a great information tool for parents and children about vitiligo, so I always make it known.” He hopes for more translations to come out so that the book’s audience can grow.

João isn’t the only one who’s making inclusive dolls for kids with vitiligo either. Doll designer Crystal Kay creates hand-painted dolls with vitiligo as well. Aside from her own creations, she also takes custom orders to cater to all the different looks out there.

These two doll creators are doing the important work of helping children learn and grow. Exposure to all sorts of people with all sorts of differences alerts young children to the many types of people there can be and ultimately helps them become more understanding and tolerant people.