Moving America Forward

Meet the Kid Who Turned a Health Scare Into Inspiration (Again, and Again)

May 14, 2014
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Meet the Kid Who Turned a Health Scare Into Inspiration (Again, and Again)
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Anja Busse, age 11, turned a diabetes diagnosis into a call to action.

A type 1 diabetes diagnosis didn’t stop 11-year-old Anja Busse of Antigo, Wis. It inspired her.

Rocked by the diagnosis six months ago, Busse knew what would make her feel better: an American Girl doll going through the same experience.

But there wasn’t one.

So Busse created an online petition urging the company to create accessories that a type 1 diabetic like herself might use. So far, Busse has garnered over 3,000 signatures.

“I feel so different now and my whole life has been turned around,” she writes. “I just want everyone to feel good about themselves no matter if they have something ‘wrong with them’.”

Among her wants: a glucose meter, an insulin pump, and “pick-me-ups”— snacks that diabetics keep on hand to control their blood sugar.

“There are thousands of girls with diabetes and it’s really hard for some of them getting diagnosed,” she told Lisa Haefs of the Antigo Daily Journal. “It’s easier with a doll that looks just like you. You have someone to take care of.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, about 1 in 400 people under the age of 20 in America have type 1 diabetes.

Busse isn’t the first child to ask American Girl Doll for more diversity.

Last year, Melissa Shang, 10, who suffers from a form of muscular dystrophy, started a petition to feature a disabled girl as a “Girl of the Year” doll. She’s gained over 142,000 signatures.

Mattel, which manufactures American Girl Dolls, responded with a letter that read in part, “We receive hundreds of passionate requests to create a variety of dolls and books based on a wide range of circumstances, and we are always considering new ways to enhance our product lines.”

The uber-popular American Girl line already offers such accessories as glasses, hearing aids, wheelchairs, and an allergy-free lunch — so Busse’s request isn’t too far-fetched.

And it’s not the pint-sized activist’s only project. Busse and her parents started the nonprofit Boxed for Joy, sending care packages to kids newly diagnosed with diabetes. And the pre-teen is recruiting for the local Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund’s Walk to Cure Diabetes. She has a national sponsor, Shwings, a company that manufactures little wings to lace onto sneakers.

It’s an apt metaphor for a kid with potentially debilitating disease who keeps finding more ways to help others.

MORE: All This ‘American Girl’ Wanted Was A Doll With A Story Like Hers

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