An online petition calling on American Girl to release a doll with a disability has been gaining traction and signatures with the help of an on-camera plea by the 10-year-old leading the charge.
Shang, from Paoli, Pa., has a form of muscular dystrophy called
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. It has kept her from running or ice skating
with her peers. She loves American Girl dolls, the petition notes, in
part because they help her "understand how it feels to be someone else."
In their petition, Melissa and her sister YingYing are asking
Mattel, which owns American Girl, to release a new doll that helps other
girls understand what it's like to face what Melissa faces.
"For once, I don't want to be invisible or a side character that the main American Girl has to help," Melissa writes on her petition page. "I want other girls to know what it's like to be me, through a disabled American Girl's story."
The 45-second YouTube video
that accompanies the petition opens with Melissa sitting in front of a
Christmas tree holding Saige, American Girl's 2013 Girl of the Year doll
described by the company as "a spirited girl whose passions inspire action."
In less than a minute, Melissa makes a confident, eloquent case for a doll like her.
"Disabled girls are American girls too," Melissa tells the camera. "We face challenges and overcome them every day."
petition, addressed to Jean McKenzie, the president of American Girl
and executive vice president of Mattel, calls for the company to release
a "Girl of the Year for 2015 who is in a wheelchair so that all girls
can learn about the difficulty of being born with a disability."
It has gained thousands of signatures in less than a week, more than 13,000 by late New Year's Day.
Girl dolls have long been known for their unique stories - initially
historical in nature and more contemporary in recent years. The stories
often feature girls overcoming challenges. According to the company's site,
the dolls are intended to "help girls grow up in a wholesome way, while
encouraging them to enjoy girlhood through fun and enchanting play."
Each year, the company releases a "Girl of the Year" with a new story and a new set of challenges.
petition ends with praise for American Girl: "Thank you so much for
telling the stories of so many girls throughout American history - and
thank you in advance for telling this one."
Mattel has not yet responded to request for comment.