She’s an American Girl

June 16, 2012

So, tomorrow is Faith’s birthday.

She will be 9.

Yowza.

Like most little girls, Faith has been excitedly counting down to this magical day.

Unlike most little girls, Faith has special needs.

Birthday parties are a dicey thing for us. Heck, outings are a dicey thing for us.

Last week, the neighbor girls went to the holy grail of girly-girliness: The American Girl Store.

I had no idea there was an American Girl Store right here in Seattle. Did you know that? Did you know that the American Girl Store does birthday parties? I didn’t.

Now, regular followers of my blog may be a bit confused right now. Wondering WHY this matters. Faith is about as far from a girly-girl as a girl can get.

Captain America? Superman? Mario? Firetrucks? Transformers? Yes.

Tea parties? Tiaras? Princesses? No.

But….there is no one peg that fits here. Faith has spent years flipping through the American Girl catalogs. Pointing to each doll and asking about it. Noting which ones are similar to her and which ones are similar to someone she knows. The “Almost American Girl” dolls in other stores have not interested her in the least. It has just been the American Girl dolls.

So…. once I realized there was an actual American Girl Store nearby, a tiny inkling of an idea started to form.

Have you ever been to an American Girl Store? It is a sea of pink and red filled to the brim with squealing girls.

What if…somehow…by some miracle….I could figure out a way to take Faith to the American Girl Store for her birthday?

Crazy? Probably. But I figured the least I could do was talk to someone and see what kind of accommodations could be made. The following is my emails with Anna. Anna is amazing and needs a raise. And a bonus. And a vacation. :)

“Hi Anna,

I am hoping to arrange a visit to the Seattle American Girl Store for my daughter, Faith’s 9th birthday. Faith is developmentally and physically disabled. For three years she has flipped through American Girl catalogs, asking about the different dolls. This year I think we are possibly able to make the trip to the store. This will be her (and my) first experience and I am wondering if there are any accommodations that can be made to help her have an enjoyable experience.

A bit about Faith…. She survived a stroke as a baby. She has a hard time physically walking. She can walk but tires easily. She can manage most of the day without her wheelchair, but if the store will involve quite a bit of walking, we may need it. She also has autism. She becomes very easily overwhelmed by too much stimuli. I am wondering if it is possible to have a small selection dolls in a small area for her to “shop” from rather than have the possibly overwhelming experience of the entire store? What time of the day is the store the quietest? 

We would also like to celebrate her “party” at the Bistro, with the goodies (cake, ice cream, tiara) but it would just be her and us (Mom and Dad). Is it possible to have a birthday party without the “party” part? 

I am a special needs blogger and I would also love to chronicle how this goes in a blog post to share with other parents. Knowing what accommodations can be made at a particular store/event is a huge help for those of us who need a bit extra help with our children.”

Anna wrote back almost instantly.

“Hi Allison,

I would love to meet with you and Faith, and I’d be more than happy to customize her visit so she can have an amazing experience!

Our store is usually the quietest during the week in the morning and early afternoon. We will begin to be busier as summer break approaches, but weekdays are often much quieter than weekends. Our store is all one level, and very accessible, so Faith would be able to enjoy everything, including the bistro and doll hair salon, while visiting in a wheelchair so she could be the most comfortable.

I’d be happy to select some dolls and outfits for Faith beforehand, and then meet with her to help her go through choices. If you can tell me which doll(s) she’s excited about, or if she’d like to find a doll that looks like her, I’d be happy to bring a selection of dolls to her to help make choosing easier.

I can also help with creating a selection of outfits and accessories too. If you can tell me a little bit about Faith, her interests, hobbies, favorite colors, what style clothes she likes, I can create a customized shopping experience with outfits and accessories she’ll love! 

You can absolutely have a birthday party for three! The Bistro Birthday Celebration includes a drink, appetizer, main course and special cake and ice cream for dessert, with a goody bag for girls. The cost is $28 per girl and $18 per adult. If you have a date in mind for visiting, I’d be happy to check on reservations in our bistro!

And you’re more than welcome to take photos to remember the experience, or ask any questions that we can help answer! I’m looking forward to meeting with you and Faith!”

This was starting to feel like something we could actually do! The American Girl Store was very willing to help come up with accommodations to help Faith enjoy her American Girl experience to the fullest even with the additional challenges. Anna called me so we could speak in more detail about what we could do to help Faith. Anna was patient and full of ideas. She also went well out of her way to not only check the Bistro’s menu for Faith’s allergens, but she also ensured that they would have Faith’s favored ice cream on hand.

Wow.

Here are the photo’s from an amazingly magical day.

Faith and I on the ferry. This was before she understood where we were going.

As we wheeled into the American Girl Store, Faith exclaimed “Mommy, there is DOLLIES here!”

Anna helped Faith get settled on a bench away from the main flow of store traffic.

Anna then brought out 4 dolls for Faith to choose from. She showed her each doll in a slow, calm manner. She opened each box and took them out so Faith could really look at them.

Oh this one. I love her. She is my very own dolly!

Next up, Anna slowly showed Faith accessories for her Dolly. Each item was unboxed and Faith was allowed to touch.

Including a chocolate lab!

Anna helped get Faith's dolly dressed up. :)

Next, Anna helped us with an appointment at the American Girl Salon. Faith supervised intently. LOL

After dolly's hair was finished, Anna escorted us to the Bistro. Dolly was settled into her own seat. Faith thought that was amazing! On the table was a birthday card for Faith from the American Girl Staff and a tiara.

Prior to being served, the staff double checked with us about Faith's allergies. Faith chose Mac and Cheese. She deemed it yummy!

Surprise! Faith was quite perplexed as to why all these people were singing to her! She blew out all the candles in one try.

"It's my Berf-day!" The cake was simply divine. Fit for a princess, or a superhero. Or even a superhero princess transformer.

The day was a success. Not only a success, but an "I had such an amazing time that I fell asleep in the car which I never do sitting beside my new bestest friend in the whole wide world" success. And I'm pretty sure that is the best kind.

If you have ever considered a trip to the American Girl Store, but have hesitated due to special needs, please email them. I can not stress enough how accommodating the entire staff was. Every person we came in contact with was so helpful, patient and understanding.

Thank you American Girl Store for helping to make a little girls wish come true.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sespi June 16, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Wow, the American Girl store is amazing! I’m so glad they were able to do that for you guys and Faith. What a great experience :) And happy birthday Faith!

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2 Poekitten June 16, 2012 at 8:50 pm

That’s amazing! I’m so glad you guys had a great experience! I did know that there was an American Girl store but only because my mom told me and is excited to take her granddaughter (who is 3 weeks away from being born) there. After hearing accommodating they are, I’m very excited to visit!

Happy Birthday Faith! I’m so glad you had a great one!

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3 Meg June 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm

This gives me happy tears. And makes me want to consider going there myself.

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4 Jennifer June 17, 2012 at 10:55 am

…. Amazing… I cried… :) So happy for her

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5 Miranda June 17, 2012 at 10:57 am

This made my heart smile. I am so happy that you all had an enjoyable experience. Faith looks so happy with her new friend.

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6 Kurt June 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm

That is such an amazing trip you all had! I didn’t know that the store did so many things.

Wow!

Faith is such a beautiful little girl and is very lucky to have such a loving and devoted family!!!!!

I’m a big fan. :)

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7 To the Nth June 17, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I read this post earlier today, and I cried.

I read it again just a moment ago, and I’m verklempt all over again. I am so glad that Faith got to have such a magical birthday. I wish her (and her dolly!) many happy returns surrounded by such love.

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8 Erin @ Aim High Erin June 30, 2012 at 7:43 pm

What an awesome trip and customer service! Glad you had a fantastic experience!

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9 Leanne July 12, 2012 at 2:33 am

Allison – I cried when I read your story. I hope you don’t mind that I linked to your story in my post – it’s just so sweet! (bottom paragraph link) http://www.raveandreview.com/2012/07/seattleite-mckenna-is-the-ag-2012-doll-of-the-year-.html

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