(CNN) – The popular American Girl Dolls highlight life for girls over the decades, but right now, modern day is no less trying.
So, the company wanted to honor frontline workers who are going above and beyond during the pandemic by creating dolls like them.
Twelve-year-old Lacey lives in Texas and has an aunt, April O’Quinn, who is an EMT in Richmond, Virginia.
“She’s an amazing, sweet little girl,” O’Quinn said. “She tells everyone about me all the time.”
Lacey may tell others about how her aunt saves lives but it wasn’t until after the fact she told O’Quinn about something big.
“I got a phone call from Lacey that told me she had nominated me for a contest,” O’Quinn said.
The popular American Girl Dolls ran a nationwide contest asking families to submit their frontline heroes, people risking their own safety to help others during the COVID-19 health emergency.
“I had no words,” O’Quinn said. “I just ended up crying because I couldn’t say anything.”
Last month, O’Quinn found out from Lacey they’d won.
“The stars and brightness in her face and eyes was amazing. It was all worth the pictures even though I hate pictures,” she said.
The EMT is now one of five heroes nationwide American Girl turned into a custom doll celebrating their service.
“Just honoring people that are out there every day, doing what we’ve done in the past and continue to do today, even though the risk of catching this crazy disease is still there,” she said.
O’Quinn’s story likely caught the eye of the contest judges because she knows that risk personally. She caught COVID-19 in March and missed a month of work.
“The lung problems were probably the worst part for me,” she said. “Just not being able – I couldn’t lay down. I had to sit up. I slept sitting up. I feel very fortunate that I only have the minor problems that I have and I can be back to work.”
Emergency medical services seemed like the perfect fit for O’Quinn and she didn’t hesitate returning once doctors gave the okay.
“I like to get in there, help people, make them feel better, and then step back into the dark,” she said.
She’s a bit uncomfortable with all the attention despite thousands of messages of support since word of her doll went public.
“The stigmatism of it, it’s a man’s world with EMS. I’m here to show and prove to you it’s not,” she said.
Really though, the review she cares about the most is holding onto her doll thousands of miles away.
“It’ll be something that neither one of us will ever forget. It’s a bond that you know I’ll hold with her forever.”
If you want to buy an April O’Quinn doll, unfortunately, they aren’t for sale.
O’Quinn’s niece has the only one. She says she hopes American Girl produces a few more of them with the profits going to a worthy cause.
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