Teen Restores American Girl Dolls to Bring Joy to Children in Need

Credit: Joy Doll Hospital, Inc.

Fourteen-year-old Leah Barcus from Fredericksburg, Virginia is bringing hope and happiness to little girls in the United States and around the world by gifting them American Girl dolls that she repairs and restores herself. According to Southern Living, Barcus’s efforts were so successful that she founded a nonprofit organization called Joy Doll Hospital so that she could continue and expand her work with sponsors who help fund the restorations. Barcus knows first-hand the comfort an American Girl doll gives to a young girl, and wanted to make sure all children, especially those who are living in difficult circumstances, experience the joy and love that fills one’s hearts with such a companion as the popular American Girl doll.

Barcus got the idea to repair dolls after receiving her first American Girl doll, which she bought second-hand, who had a loose limb. Though she was not willing to do repairs on her own doll, Barcus got the idea to repair other American Girl dolls in poor condition to gift to little girls that would not be able to have one of their own. Upon learning that little girls were growing up without having their own homes or families, Barcus began her efforts to give them the dolls to fill their hearts with the love they were missing. 


According to Southern Living, Barcus said, “I guess in my mind, orphanages and children’s homes were in stories, or in the past…The thought of kids my age being alone and completely separated from their families was hard for me to imagine. When I am lonely or worried about something, I have my family. They love me and I can trust them. The kids in those places may not have that. I knew what my doll was for me. I knew that with my doll, I had a friend, a companion, and someone to talk to. I wondered what it could mean for kids in a children’s home or somewhere going through bad times to have a doll too.” 

Barcus has sent dolls all around the United States and to other parts of the world including, most recently, Ukraine. Last week, 30 Joy Dolls were sent to Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia to be given to little girls who have experienced the tragedy of war in their homeland and who are in desperate need of love, kindness, and a companion. 


With each doll that is sent to a little girl, Barcus is sending hope with it. She shared that though it is her love and care that restores the dolls, it is God’s love that can heal the hearts of those suffering around the world. Receiving a Joy Doll, reminds little girls and their families that they are thought of, cared for, and loved. The mission and meaning behind Joy Doll Hospital is fulfilled as little girls hold their new companions, restoring their faith that good exists in the world. 

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