Grandfather With Vitiligo Crochets Inclusive Dolls For Kids With The Condition

by Leah Groth
João Stanganelli Junior/Instagram

João Stanganelli Junior is helping people with vitiligo feel included, one doll at a time

Living with a skin condition like vitiligo can be incredibly difficult, especially for children. So many kids want to choose dolls that have similar features to themselves. Only, when you suffer from a condition that alters the pigmentation of your skin, it’s virtually impossible to find.

João Stanganelli Junior is one of the 0.5 to one percent of the world population who lives with the condition — and he is making sure that children with vitiligo don’t have to feel left out just because they look different. The 64-year-old grandfather started a business knitting inclusionary dolls, and they are so stinking adorable.

Stanganelli, who has spent most of his life in the gastronomy industry, recent became semi-retired due to health issues. To keep himself active and engaged, he decided to take up crocheting with his wife.

“At first my fingers and back hurt a lot, today no more,” he 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.”

His very first doll was for his granddaughter. He wanted to create a doll with vitiligo patches for her, that she could remember him by. It gave him the idea to make more inclusive dolls, even one in a wheelchair. He designed them to help children feel ‘normal’ and valued, whether they were dealing with a skin condition or anything else where they might not be able to find a doll that looks like them. Each is totally unique. Now, he shares his designs on social media using Facebook and Instagram to display his latest works.

“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 continued. “I still quote Benjamin Disraeli: ‘Life is too short to be small.’”

Stanganelli isn’t the only doll maker out there representing the condition. Custom doll designer Crystal Kay hand paints dolls with vitiligo, and they are absolutely beautiful as well.

Bravo to Stangenlli for this major contribution to inclusivity. A knit doll might not seem like a big deal to some people, but for others, it can be the gateway to self-esteem and self-acceptance.