Kids with diabetes find comfort in custom American Girl dolls

Posted at 5:24 PM, Jan 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-12 09:07:35-05

FARMINGTON, Utah -- Type 1 diabetes is not typically something a diabetic wants to show off or talk about, but American Girl doll company is helping children who suffer from the disease feel less alone as now some of its dolls are also diabetic.

“It means I have somebody just like me and it's fun to have somebody just like you,” said 7-year-old Emerie Gelter of Farmington.

Emerie was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two and a half years ago.  Currently she has three American Girl dolls. It wasn't until a couple days after her birthday on Jan. 2 that she received Eliza, an American Doll who was also diabetic.

The American Girl company prides itself on making dolls that are “like” their owners.

Some American Girl dolls have hearing aids, allergen appropriate lunches assembled for them, and even service dogs that a parent can buy to add to the toy doll.

On Jan. 1, American Girl company started selling toy diabetes supply kits for their dolls. Each kit is $24.

Emerie’s mother, Megan Gelter, found out about the kits through social media. She ordered it and it came just a couple days after Emerie’s birthday.

Emerie loves it.  She tests her doll’s blood sugar and puts her toy insulin pump on her.  The pump is even colored pink, just like Emerie’s pink insulin pump that she wears on her hip every day.

“Yesterday she was 74, so I gave her one sugar tablet and she came up to 104 and she is still 104,” explained Emerie as she described how she checks her doll’s blood sugar levels.

“It's something I know Emerie has asked about,” Gelter said.  “It's no longer something that she feels alone about. It's one thing to have friends with diabetes but it's another thing to have a constant companion with diabetes. In our home she is the only one. I think it helps her to take care of herself because she is able to take care of her doll as well. She doesn't feel so left out of things.”

The American Girl company said many girls have been asking it to make diabetes kits for a few years. Two years ago, an 11-year-old from Wisconsin even got an online petition going with more than 4,000 signatures from people also wanting the company to sell a type 1 kit for its dolls. It worked, and now the kits are available.

Gelter thinks the kits serve a purpose other than being a toy though.

“I think American Girl is paving the way for other companies to pick it up or other toy lines. And it raises awareness because everyone that's looking through that catalogue and comes across the kit - they are going to ask about. And other kids will ask about it and maybe it won't be such a strange thing anymore.”

‘Strange’ is a tough word to swallow for someone like Idaho and Utah’s local Juvenile Diabetes Research Chapter’s executive Director Mike Somers because he has worked hard to make type 1 diabetes familiar with his community.

“Nationally, there is 40,000 people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes every year,” Somers said.

Somers sees the kits as another way to educate people who have stereotypes that all diabetes, type 1 and type 2, are self-inflicted.

That is not the case.  Type 1 is an auto immune condition, where antibodies attack the pancreas and stops it from producing a hormone called insulin. Insulin is produced to break down sugars from food that enter the body.

When the sugar is not broken down, the blood sugar level rises can eventually cause permanent damage, and even death.

“My body doesn't work and my pancreas doesn't,” explained Emerie.

Emerie and her mother love the new kit and hope to share it with their friends. In the meantime, the little girl, who petitioned for the kits about two years ago, her mother has a Facebook page called ‘Diabetic American Girl’ and it’s been flooded with pictures of little girls with their American Girl dolls and their new diabetes kits.

Megan just hopes the education and the awareness never stops.

“Just knowing that even her toys can go through the same thing that she is going through, that's something that helps her realize it's not so terrible,” Gelter said.

Gelter added her friends who have a little boy with Type 1 diabetes also like the kits because they can use them on their toys and stuffed animals.

For the link to the American Girl website and the kit: