- Associated Press - Saturday, January 9, 2016

ANTIGO, Wis. (AP) - American Girl has long prided itself on offering dolls that resemble their young clientele.

On Jan. 1_due in part to the efforts of an Antigo youngster_the company went a step further, adding diabetes supplies to mimic those used by the thousands of youngsters and adults nationwide dealing with the oftentimes devastating illness.

“I was surprised. I didn’t know it was coming,” 13-year-old Anja Busse told the Antigo Daily Journal (https://bit.ly/1POlA5I ). “This is really exciting because a lot of girls will be able to get supplies for their dolls.”

The Middleton-based toy manufacturer announced last month that it will sell a Diabetes Care Kit beginning Jan. 1, featuring doll-sized replicas of a blood sugar monitor, lancet, insulin pump, insulin pen, medical bracelet, glucose tablets, log book, ID card, stickers and carrying case. It will retail for $24 and will be available through the company and its retail stores.

It marks the culmination of a two-year effort launched by Anja, daughter of Chad and Ingrid Busse, along with hundreds of other girls over the years who implored the company to add the accessories.

“There is a huge market for this,” Ingrid Busse says. “American Girl is known for its quality products and marketing dolls that look like their owners. I think it has great potential and will be a big seller for them.”

Anja was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in late 2013, when she was 11 years old. Her parents, health care providers, and friends all provided support and comfort, but sometimes a girl needs a special friend, and in Anja’s case it was her two American Girl dolls she received for Christmas during that difficult period.

Anja discovered that the company made accessories such as service dogs, glasses, hearing aids, braces, wheelchairs, and other health care aids, but not diabetes supplies.

“There are thousands of girls with diabetes, and it’s really hard for some of them after they get diagnosed,” she said at the time. “It’s easier with a doll that looks just like you. You have someone to take care of.”

She created a Change.org petition calling on American Girl to create diabetic accessories and insulin pumps for dolls, garnering 4,335 supporters very quickly.

“I was nervous and confident at the same time,” she recalls. “I had some doubts, but in the end I knew they would do it.”

Corporate wheels grind slowly though, and Anja moved on to other projects, including Boxes of Joy, which provides diabetic youngsters with cards, letters and some fun accessories. That project, and her other educational efforts, won her a Wisconsin Heroes citation from first lady Tonette Walker earlier last month.

That would have likely been the year’s highlight, until the latest news.

American Girl spokesman Stephanie Spanos says the company is “thrilled” to be offering the kits, as well as other new accessories such as arm crutches.

“We always appreciate the enthusiasm and trust our fans have in us to create a particular product. Although we are unable to accept product ideas, American Girl has stated its ongoing commitment to creating products that represent diversity and inclusion and the Diabetes Care Kit is another example of the company’s efforts in that area,” Spanos says. “We have numerous products in our development pipeline at any given time, and we’re proud to introduce the Diabetes Care Kit this January to our many fans.”

Anja will not spend much time savoring her victory. She is continuing her educational efforts, including creating stop-motion videos with her dolls that can be played through social media sites as another way of educating patients and families dealing with Type I diabetes.

And she still must deal with her illness on a day-by-day basis, something that will not change unless there are substantial advances in medical treatments.

“I have diabetes,” Anja says. “Diabetes doesn’t have me.”

___

Information from: Antigo Daily Journal, https://www.antigodailyjournal.com

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