A Doll Like Me

Many of us still remember our favorite toy, spending countless hours with the object that reflected our childhood interests and brought us happiness and comfort. And since 2015, Amy Jandrisevits, the founder of A Doll Like Me, has been working tirelessly to make sure that kids with disabilities are uniquely represented in the toys they play with.  

According to a 2021 report by UNICEF, an estimated 240 million children across the globe have some form of disability. That’s nearly a quarter of a billion children, most of whom are not represented in the industries that dominate our cultures.

While representation in the media has been growing, disabilities are still widely underrepresented. A 2020 report by GLAAD discovered that the amount of regular primetime broadcast characters counted who have a disability is 3.1%, a record-high percentage that is vastly below the U.S. population of people with disabilities. And representation on children’s television is even less: Under 1% of all leading characters have a physical, mental, or communication disability, according to the See Jane 2019 report.

Another major industry, especially for children, is toys, which largely lacks representation and inclusion in what we see available on store shelves. But A Doll Like Me, funded by donations, is addressing that problem by creating one-of-a-kind dolls for kids with physical differences that have never seen a toy that resembles themselves. 

The handmade dolls take roughly five hours to complete, and for the children — like Hope and Chloe — who receive them, they are much more than just fabric and thread.

“Every doll tells a story and every doll represents somebody, who has been through an incredible journey,” Jandrisevits told Nice News. “For most of the kids, they will never see another kid that looks like they do, let alone a toy.”

A Doll Like Me
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Her operation is looking to change the narrative, one doll at a time, by showing the children who are often left out of the story that they matter.

Representation is vital for the self-esteem of a child, and the powerful impact these dolls have on their young owners is evident by their reactions and the stories told by the families. Jandrisevits recalled that one little girl said upon receiving a doll, “‘I’m going to take her to school, so that kids see that I’m not the only one that looks like this.'” She added, “And you think what a burden for a child, but how amazing that that’s how they view this doll.”

The Wisconsin-based organization, which became a nonprofit over 3 ½ years ago and has made more than 500 unique dolls for children across the globe —  from Israel to Australia to Iceland — began when Jandrisevits created a doll for a friend of a friend, and it was posted online.

“I did her doll and was not thinking of having a business. But within like, two months, I had 200 orders and that was only for dolls with limb differences,” Jandrisevits said. “They can’t walk into the toy store and say, ‘That looks just like me.’ And I think that most of the kids in the world can’t do that as evidenced by the fact that I have thousands of kids on the waitlist.”

Since then, A Doll Like Me has expanded beyond creating only dolls with limb differences, and the swift increase in demand has introduced Jandrisevits to families all over the world who are hopeful of having their child represented.

“This is how we’re going to rewrite the narrative, right? We’re going to show, look, they want the same things that everyone else wants, right? They want their kids to be represented and seen,” said Jandrisevits. “When we realize that everybody has a story, it’s so much more interesting.”

If you are interested in helping a child receive a doll, click here to donate.

Robert Sansone
Society for Science

From a Florida farm to first place at the largest international high school science and engineering fair, meet the world’s most promising young engineer.

Robert Sansone, 17, won the $75,000 top award at the 2022 Regeneron ISEF in May. For his submission, Sansone built a new type of motor to be used in electric cars. This motor could one day replace the machines, reliant on unsustainable, rare earth elements, that currently power such vehicles.

Through his research, the young innovator found alternative designs of electric motors that don’t utilize these elements, but they lacked the performance quality to be a suitable replacement. So he redesigned one of the possible substitutes to perform at the necessary level for use in electric vehicles.

The winners of the 2022 Regeneron science fair Society for Science

Sansone determined that the motor had the ideal performance levels by testing the two main factors for choosing an electric motor: torque and efficiency. Not having access to the technology used by mechanical engineers to test these factors, he used his own mathematical calculations.

“If you are really passionate about a project that you want to pursue, and you really look in a wide perspective of what is available to you, you can accomplish a lot more than you think you might,” Sansone told Nice News, adding that his main message to kids interested in science and engineering is: “You don’t have to wait until college or a career to actually start doing stuff that you’re passionate about in the field.”

His project is proof of his words. Many of the parts used were 3D-printed out of plastic, all of the coils of wire in the machine were wound by hand, and after 14 versions, Sansone finally had his prototype. But his submission, prototype 15, is only the beginning of what he hopes to achieve. “Ultimately, I want to build a version 16 of the motor,” he said.

Society for Science

During the global science fair’s awards ceremony, announcers called second, third, and fourth place winners at the beginning, leaving Sansone thinking, “I either got nothing or I got first place.” After the latter was announced, he recalled, “I was super excited because to have my research recognized on that level [after] how much I put into my project. It was really great.”

As for future plans, Sansone wants to use the prize money he earned to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering and, eventually, become an engineer that designs electric motors.

“And then of course, if my machine works out version 16 of the motor and I can get patented, then who knows what opportunities may come from that?” he said.

lindsay_imagery / E+ via Getty Images

Looking for a cycling experience unlike anywhere else on Earth? Abu Dhabi may be the spot for you. 

Last year, the capital of the United Arab Emirates became the first city in the Middle East and Asia to be designated as an official “Bike City” by the sport’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale, CNN reported. 

In recent years, miles of designated bike paths have appeared beside new highways. And while the blazing summer temperatures may make it the world’s hottest cycling city, with most bikers riding before sunrise or after sunset, the milder winter climate allows enthusiasts to ride year-round. 

The locale attracts beginners to experts, offering everything from pleasant bike rides along the waterfront Corniche to intense journeys up Jebel Hafit, and welcomes locals and visitors alike. “One of the main objectives is to have more tourists come and have a bike vacation in Abu Dhabi,” Al Nukhaira Allkhyeli, executive director of the Abu Dhabi Cycling Club (ADCC), told CNN. 

The ADCC, which was established in 2017, is another perk of cycling in the second-most populous city of the UAE. The organization, which is free to join, “coordinates public and sports cycling events in the emirate,” according to CNN, while raising awareness of cycling as a way to enhance a healthy lifestyle.

One of the main attractions is the Yas Marina Circuit, which hosts Formula One auto racing events and is open to the public for cycling in the morning or evening. 

Another highlight is Al Hudayriyat, an island south of the city that offers free facilities, including a cycle track and a bike park with trails that vary in levels of difficulty. Ricky Bautista, an employee at a cycle shop in Dubai and user of the track, gave a positive review of the spot after his coworkers convinced him to try it out. 

“It’s really challenging [sometimes] because of the wind, but then you change direction and you feel like you’re flying and it’s more enjoyable,” he said.

While the unique riding experience alone is enough to draw in cyclists, the new Bike City is continuing to expand its features. A bike path linking Abu Dhabi with nearby Dubai and an indoor cycle-racing arena are both currently in the works.

Scientists May Have Found the Youngest-Known Planet
ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), S. Dagnello (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Astronomers have detected evidence of what appears to be one of the youngest-known planets in the universe. 

In the journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters, scientists detailed the first-ever detection of gas in a circumplanetary disk, suggesting the presence of a Jupiter-sized exoplanet in the constellation Ophiuchus, 395 light-years away from Earth.

This newborn planet is estimated to be only 1.6 million years old and is so young that it’s still in the process of forming.

The discovery was made as scientists, who were using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope to study young star AS 209, “observed a blob of emitted light in the middle of an otherwise empty gap in the gas surrounding the star” that led to the detection of the disk and suspected new planet. 

It is only the third confirmed detection ever of a circumplanetary disk, which is composed of gas, dust, and debris, and orbits around young planets — eventually forming moons and other rocky objects.

“The best way to study planet formation is to observe planets while they’re forming. We are living in a very exciting time when this happens thanks to powerful telescopes,” Jaehan Bae, a professor of astronomy at the University of Florida and the lead author of the paper, said in a press release from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

And the discovery itself isn’t the only exciting part: The James Webb Space Telescope will hopefully determine the new planet’s mass and atmospheric chemistry in the near future, giving scientists further insight about our own solar system. 

“It is like looking at our own past,” Myriam Benisty, an astronomer at the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble in France and a co-author of the study, told The New York Times.

While the possible planet is currently still in progress, scientists are optimistic that future telescopic observations will soon confirm its existence.

three casts with bright colorful paintings of hello kitty, tinkerbell, and the snowman from frozen
Children's Hospital L.A. / Instagram

This orthopedic technician can now add “artist” to his resume. Luis Ruiz, who works at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, transforms his young patients’ casts into adorable pieces of art.

Ruiz has painted thousands of casts over the past decade or so, customizing the plaster with everything from cartoon characters to sports teams.

And while the best part for the children may be admiring the artwork, for him, it’s seeing their smiles.

“The kids just bring me joy,” Ruiz told People. “I’m kind of a fun guy and a little kid myself inside, and I like having fun and making kids smile, and they make me smile.”

It all began “about 10 years ago, [when] a little boy asked me to draw a happy face on his cast,” he recalled. Though he was initially hesitant, Ruiz agreed after the youngster continued to insist on the drawing. He had warned him, “‘You know what, I’m really not good at drawing. I’d rather not. I might mess it up.'”

But after seeing the little boy’s reaction to his art, Ruiz became inspired to share his artistic talents with all the children in need of casts.

Ruiz has come a long way since drawing that smiley face. He began with permanent markers, but now uses oil-based paint pens as they work better on the material.

“I was not very good,” Ruiz shared. “But as time went by, little by little, I got better and better, to a point where now I can almost do anything they ask for.”

More than anything, these drawings give the children something fun to talk about “instead of having to explain what happened to them.”

One of his most memorable cast paintings was for a young girl with cancer who wanted a Wonder Woman emblem.

“It made her very happy to go around with that [drawing], because she got a lot of compliments on it,” Ruiz explained.

His work shows what a big impact a little paint can have.

Disneyland park; Disney princess uses American Sign Language to speak with parkgoer, who is deaf
AaronP / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images via Getty Images

“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind.” The quote from Lilo & Stitch sums up how Disney’s parks have been working to become more inclusive of all visitors.

Guest Zoe Tapley, who is deaf, experienced it this past July when she was meeting characters at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

Jeanette Tapley, Zoe’s mother, explained to Upworthy that when the woman dressed as Anna from Frozen used American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with her daughter, “Zoe was in shock.”

“She was so excited to be chatting with a Princess without my husband or I having to jump in and assist her,” Tapley added. “She just kept saying, ‘Wow!!!’ We all just cried because it was so special and surprising!”

Tapley captured the sweet moment on video and shared it on TikTok, where the post has amassed 2 million views and nearly 500,000 likes.

“We are just so thankful. Zoe has loved reading notes from people, she feels seen and loved and it’s been really fun to know that she is not alone. We are SO [incredibly] thankful to Princess Ana for loving our family like this. We are forever bonded and I believe that she will be Zoe’s favorite princess for all of time,” Tapley said.

While the trip was Zoe’s second time to the amusement park, it was her first experience interacting with a character who knew sign language.

The heartwarming interaction isn’t the first time a Disney character has communicated with a guest using ASL. In 2016, a video of Captain America using ASL with a parkgoer went viral, and the Disneyland Resort has been actively working on inclusivity for guests who are hard of hearing since 2010.

In our hearts, the true superheroes and princesses are the ones who embrace inclusion for all of their fans.