Many years ago, I started writing about how our kids deserve more toys that include limb differences. Jordan helped take that discussion up a notch by launching a Change.org petition asking American Girl to consider offering limb difference dolls. This is a topic Jordan and I are committed to talking about as often as possible.
Many years ago, a company named Amputeddy sold amputee bears that came with a fuzzy prosthetic limb. It was very cute and it even came with matching children’s books. But the creator stopped selling the bears not long after we purchased one for Jordan when she was a baby.
Since then, we’ve found a few limb difference toys, but not many. Jordan’s ultimate limb difference doll came from A Doll Like Me. But Jordan would love to see more. She really hopes her petition launches a change in the toy industry. That’s why the announcement of the arrival of limb difference/limb loss bears at Vermont Teddy Bear got us so excited. Jordan can’t claim any responsibility for the launch of the custom bears, but that doesn’t make her any less thrilled.
I am also excited, especially after knowing how the company responded negatively to requests for custom limb difference bears many years ago. But it’s 2017, and times are clearly changing. Vermont Teddy Bear Company announced the ability for anyone to order a custom-made bear with limb differences or limb loss just in time to recognize April’s Limb Loss Awareness Month.
I reached out to the company and had a chance to talk to the product designer, Cassie Clayton and brand manager, Abby Temeles. They gave me some time to better understand how the company made such a turnaround. Both women are pretty new to the company and didn’t have any links to previous attitudes about limb difference custom requests.
Since Cassie is the lead for product development, she said she is always challenging herself to think differently and try to fulfill a big brand promise: To provide a bear for everybody. Vermont Teddy Bears can be dressed up in all kinds of ways to show careers or hobbies. But Cassie wanted to do more. While brainstorming with Abby, they started thinking about how to make bears for everybody that also include every body. With that in mind, Cassie researched on how her team could create a custom-made bear that didn’t dramatically change the production workflow.
Vermont Teddy Bear Company already takes custom paw design requests, so adding a custom limb size would not create a major production change. Custom bears take an extra day to make no matter what, so the request would not disrupt a thing. But custom limb bears would benefit a tremendous number of people affected by limb differences and limb loss.
To do this project the right way, Cassie reached out to the Amputee Coalition to learn more about limb differences and the types that could be represented in bears. You can tell Cassie did her homework when you go through the purchasing experience. Each custom bear has the option for above/below elbow and above/below knee. If you want to make a bear for someone with multiple limb differences/limb loss, you will not have to pay extra. It’s a dream customization for a mom of a child who desperately wants to see these options on more toys.
The Vermont Teddy Bear team also created this collection of bears to fall under its “Bears That Care” campaign. That means 20 percent of the profit from each custom limbed bear will go to the Amputee Coalition. The company tells me it plans to keep limb difference/limb loss bears as a permanent custom bear option. I’m so excited to have purchased one for Jordan and got to watch her tell me her thoughts about it.
By the way, this post wasn’t sponsored by Vermont Teddy Bear Company. I purchased Jordan’s bear without any expectations or benefits from the company. I was just really curious to learn more about how and why this project happened. I really hope the company’s customizations help encourage more brands to follow. Jordan’s petition to encourage American Girl to offer the same custom options for dolls continue… She needs fewer than 230 signatures to hit 25,000! We’d love to see limb loss and limb differences represented in even more places!