Ten-year-old Charlotte Gould was born with a cleft lip and palate and had two surgeries before her first birthday to correct them. When she was 7, she began sewing and made a soft doll that looked just like her — “my hair, my glasses, my stitches and all,” she says. “Everybody wanted one!” She began making dolls for other children who needed surgery, with personalized stitching to reflect their procedures.
“Surgery can be scary,” says Charlotte, who had another in second grade and was comforted having her doll with her. “It’s something soft to hold that makes you feel so much better.”
After a crowdfunding campaign in 2017, Stitches by Charlotte launched a website and expanded, moving production from Charlotte’s sewing room to a mother-daughter-run factory near their Phoenix home. Recently, the factory made 500 dolls, and Charlotte, her younger sister, parents and two grandmas stuffed and sewed them all. Each doll comes with thread and a family-friendly needle so children, parents, doctors or nurses can add “stitches” in the likeness of each child’s surgery. Charlotte plans to sell dolls through her website and eventually in hospital gift shops. Her goal is for every child going in for surgery to have a companion doll.