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Family First

My Love for Dolls Started With My Sister

· Sisterhood

By Eraina Ferguson

Inclusion is not just a buzzword for our family. As the mother of four daughters, one with severe bilateral hearing loss, we are well aware of challenges children face while living with hearing loss.

When our family learned of the American Girl of the Year Joss, we were excited. Joss is an amazing new addition to the American Girl Doll Family for a number of reasons, but mainly for our family, her hearing device means so much. Ever since I walked out of the hospital with my daughter Taylor, I wanted a good life for my daughter despite her circumstances.

Besides her hearing loss, my Taylor also has cognitive delays and is not a typical 20 year old. When she was 17 years old we started a yearly tradition of celebrating her birthday at American Girl’s Cafe. She looks forward to this yearly tradition, and now she has the opportunity to feel more included with the release of the Joss doll. It allows her to bond with her sister Ella, a typical 6 year old, who also loves American Girl.

Inclusion is not just a buzzword for our family. It is an intentional way of life that we have to execute daily for our special needs daughter. When I first gave birth to Taylor, I didn’t know that she would be the only child for a number of years, but now that she has siblings, it is a masterful art of including her siblings into her communication pattern, without over taxing our only daughter that is verbal.

American Girl, the inspiring world of dolls, Girl of the Year ™ , Joss Kendrick. ™ Joss — a fierce athlete born with hearing loss and a passion for surfing and competitive cheer — joins American Girl’s lineup of inspirational characters who impart meaningful life lessons to help girls learn and grow with confidence. Whether she’s on her surfboard or in the gym, Joss shows girls the importance of trying new things, pushing past stereotypes, and being a good team player.

To celebrate the new Girl of the Year, American Girl is teaming up with 17-year-old surfing prodigy Caroline Marks, as she prepares to make history next summer as a member of the first-ever U.S. Women’s Olympic surfing team. “I’m so excited to be a part of the Joss launch and share her message that passion and hard work can really take a girl places—even to the Olympics,” said Marks.

“American Girl has a rich legacy of creating timeless characters who encourage girls to reach for new heights and discover who they’re meant to be,” said Jamie Cygielman, General Manager of American Girl. “We’re proud to welcome Joss Kendrick, whose stories are sure to instill confidence and character in girls who are learning to think about the possibilities in their own lives. Working with Olympic hopeful surfer Caroline Marks adds real-world inspiration about what can happen when you go ‘all in’ on your dreams.”

When the surf’s up, Joss loves to catch the waves any chance she can get. When she accepts her brother’s dare to try out for the competitive cheer team, Joss figures it’ll be easy. But instead of pom-poms and chants, Joss is surprised to see daring pyramids, flips, and jumps, and realizes the first rule of surfing—give respect to get respect—applies in the gym as well. By going all-in with cheer, Joss reaches new heights and discovers a whole new side of herself.

Joss comes to life through a beautiful 18-inch doll with long brown hair and brown eyes. She arrives wearing a swimsuit, hoodie, and shorts, plus a removable hearing aid in her right ear. Other Joss products include a surfboard and swim gear, cheer outfits and equipment—including a cheer backpack, slides, and competition shoes in partnership with Nfinity ® —and her talented English bulldog, Murph the Surf Dog. And coming this spring, American Girl, in partnership with

Volkswagen Accessories, will debut Joss’s Volkswagen Surf Bus, which comes fully stocked with more than 50 components, including a storage bench that folds into a bed, a pop-up stove, and a fold-out table. The surf bus also features working headlights, turn signals, windshield wipers, and a radio, plus sounds for the horn and ignition.

Girls can tune into a weekly online series, “Meet Joss,” plus view Joss-inspired music videos, DIY crafts, doll hair features, and other videos throughout the year on the brand’s popular YouTube Kids Channel.

A dedicated Joss play site offers girls free book excerpts, games and quizzes, wallpaper, and much more. In honor of Joss, American Girl is proud to partner with Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the nation’s leading nonprofit representing people with hearing loss, with a $25,000 donation to support the organization’s education and awareness programs. American Girl is also supporting HLAA’s 2020 Walk4Hearing. Celebrating its 15 th year, the Walk4Hearing brings families together across the US to encourage hearing health and living well with hearing loss.

January 1, 2020 through the end of the year, the company will collect donations for HLAA at and at American Girl stores nationwide.

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