A grandfather named João Stanganelli's diverse crocheted dolls, including one in a wheelchair, are meant to help all kids feel "normal."

By Maressa Brown
September 20, 2019
Credit: João Stanganelli

A doting grandpa from Brazil named João Stanganelli, Jr. is getting worldwide acclaim for his heartwarming effort to crochet dolls that represent all different people, from those who have vitiligo—a common skin condition that causes loss of pigmentation—to those who use wheelchairs. The inclusive dolls are meant to remind little ones that they're "normal" and valued, no matter what condition they're living with.

Stanganelli, 64, who has had vitiligo himself since he was in his 30s, recently became semi-retired from the gastronomy industry. That's when he and his wife began to crochet. He made a doll for his granddaughter, so she'd have something to remember him by. Modeling the doll after himself meant it sported vitiligo spots. And an entire line-up of diverse dolls was born.

"At first my fingers and back hurt a lot, today no more,” Stanganelli 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 percent of my time with the dolls. I have many orders."

The way Stanganelli has approached vitiligo specifically in his work has inspired followers on social media. The grandfather boasts nearly 8K Instagram followers and 2K on Facebook.

One commenter on Facebook recently shared, "Have a son who has vitiligo & put up with a lot of mean comments throughout his childhood! This is very sweet of you to do for these kids!" Another said, "My daughter has this. Cannot wait to show her in the morning."

Stanganelli has also joined efforts with author Tati Santos de Oliveira, whose daughter Maria Luiza was three when she started to notice signs of vitiligo. Maria's diagnosis lead her mom to write a book called A Menina Feita de Nuvens or The Girl Made of Clouds. "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," the author noted. Now, Maria has her very own "cloud-spotted" doll.

It seems the upbeat artist and Santos de Oliveira have the same approach to their work and life, and that's being proactive and positive. Stanganelli told Bored Panda that after accepting vitiligo, you can "choose what you want to do," and he likes to embrace a quote by Benjamin Disraeli: "Life is too short to be small."

Props to this proud grandfather for sending that powerful message to little ones through his art.


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