What started as a cool hobby for a 64-year-old grandfather has turned into a unique project, touching the hearts of kids facing various disabilities.

It all began when João Stanganelli Junior found interest in crocheting after health issues forced him to take early retirement from working in the food industry.

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As a vitiligo patient, he decided to use his crocheting skills to make vitiligo crochets dolls to make kids with similar conditions feel better and represented.

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Vitiligo is a chronic skin condition associated with white patches (with sharp margins) on some parts of the skin. It’s caused by a loss of pigments that give the skin its characteristic color.

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This condition is a rare skin disorder that affects 1-3 percent of the world’s population, and it can start at any age — It can manifest after birth or even affect adults in their 20s.

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As for João, he first noticed the signs of vitiligo in his 30s.

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He told BoredPanda:

“At first, my fingers and back hurt a lot, today no more. I’m not yet retired, I still keep up my old work with food, but much less intensely. At the moment, I spend 90% of my time with the dolls. I have many orders.”

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Although vitiligo isn’t life-threatening, this condition could inflict social stigma and lower one’s self-esteem. And children with this condition are at high risk of having social problems, which may lead to depression and social isolation.

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In a bid to help these kids cope with the condition, João thought of creating vitiligo crochet dolls for them.

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So, he started making more of these inclusive dolls, including a doll in a wheelchair, amongst others.

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The dolls are all designed to help kids with disabilities feel ‘normal’ and valued, no matter what kind of condition they are living with.

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Motivated and inspired by the joy and self-esteem his dolls were bringing, João continued to create more of these cuties. So far, he’s created more than 200 custom dolls his Instagram account is filled with photos of his creations.

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João shares:

“My view of vitiligo seems to me to be very different from the general, I think it is necessary first that you have vitiligo, after this acceptance you choose what you want to do. I still quote Benjamin Disraeli: ‘Life is too short to be small.’”

João adds that he’s happy to uplift so many kids with the same disorder, and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.

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He says, adding a message for people everywhere:

“It has been rewarding, stimulating. I’m happy to be a good influencer.”

“Stains on vitiligo are beautiful. What is ugly is stains on people’s character.”

Here’s what social media users say about João’s creations:

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