I’ll have to admit, something my privileged white girl self didn’t give a lot of thought to growing up (or for some of the time was I am actual grown up, if I’m honest) was that if you weren’t a white, able-bodied child, finding dolls or action figures that looked like you wasn’t an easy task. And while there’s been some progress, we aren’t 100% of the way there yet. Realizing that, a Florida elementary school took things into their own hands. (Yes, this is a good story out of Florida. Unbelievable.)
The second-graders at Cracker Trail Elementary school in Sebring, Florida had raised $500.00 in their annual fundraiser and decided then wanted to use the funds to help a child with medical issues. Now, I’m thinking that their teacher, Elisabeth Prendergast, guided the decision to be charitable rather then blow the whole lot on a buttload of candy, but still, holy crap, how cool are these kids? So began the search for a kid in their local community they could help.
Enter: Payton Haynes. Payton is a 5-year-old boy in Sebring. According to People, he was born with craniosynostosis, a birth defect in which a baby’s skull bones connect too early, and also has hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid in the brain cavities. As a result, Payton has had multiple brain surgeries that have left a large scar on the back of his head. Teacher Prendergast was connected with Payton’s mom Kristin, and the idea to create a custom doll for Payton that had scars just like his. Custom doll-maker Amy Jandrisevits created the Payton-look-alike and the students presented the doll to Payton.
According to Kristin, Payton loved his gift. “He said, ‘He looks just like me.” He loved it, and the first thing he did was take the doll’s shoes off because Payton doesn’t like to wear shoes.” She continued, “For my little boy, there is nothing out there that just looks like him. I thought it’d be amazing for him to look down and see something that reflects himself.”
The toy will also serve an educational purpose, according to Payton’s mom: “Payton will go to school and it’s much easier to take a doll with us and say, ‘Hey, Payton has had some big surgeries under his hair and that may be why he can’t play contact sports or has to leave for a doctor’s appointment.’ A lot of this for us moving forward is going to be teaching him to be an advocate for himself and educating other people.”
As for the kids, Prendergast said, “It was just the sweetest thing ever. Their faces just lit up! They cheered, they clapped, they cheered and clapped some more. They learned charity and empathy, and it was really amazing.”
Yes, yes it was.