American Girl honors pandemic heroes by turning them into one-of-a-kind dolls

The popular doll line, owned by Mattel, asked kids across the country to nominate an outstanding hero in their life as part of its Heroes with Heart contest, which is designed to thank and honor people who have risked their lives amid the pandemic. By Gabriel Kinder, CNN

(CNN) -- Five people on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic are getting the American Girl treatment.

The popular doll line, owned by Mattel, asked kids across the country to nominate an outstanding hero in their life as part of its Heroes with Heart contest, which is designed to thank and honor people who have risked their lives amid the pandemic.

The winners received a one-of-a-kind, custom-made American Girl doll and outfit in their hero's likeness to gift the honoree, along with a $200 American Girl gift card for the nominator, a spokesperson for American Girl told CNN.

"We had an amazing response with more than 1K nominations of really moving stories," the spokesperson said in an email statement. "Our criteria points of originality, being heartfelt in nature and fitting the contest theme helped us narrow it down, but truly every submission was moving and it's wonderful to hear of all the real-life community heroes around us."

April O'Quinn, a Virginia-based paramedic who was among the selected heroes, told CNN "it's a huge, huge honor to represent females in EMS."

"People tend to forget the EMS providers and for this to be so huge now in our community," she said. "They are just absolutely loving it."

The 39-year-old, who has more than 15 years of experience on the job, contracted Covid-19 and after recovering, immediately returned to work to care for others.

O'Quinn's niece Lacey nominated her aunt. In her submission, she said that at times, O'Quinn had to do her job without the right protective equipment or cleaning supplies. She also detailed her aunt's struggle with Covid-19.

"When she was finally healed and released back to work, she didn't hesitate for one moment," Lacey wrote, according to a quote from the American Doll website.

O'Quinn said she has a message for young girls who may be inspired by her story: "We are just as strong as the men are. We can do this job just as well as everyone else. Don't let anyone hold you back because you are a girl."

The paramedic is among five honorees, whose dolls are also featured on the American Girl website. The others are:

  • Xavier: The 17-year-old grocery store worker was nominated by his sister for working five days a week at a grocery store during the pandemic. "He has asthma and he still risks it to help out," his sister wrote in the submission.
  • Pam: The teacher was nominated by her students. She visited each student's house with a smile, an encouraging sign, and a bag of books.
  • Sarah: The nurse assistant was nominated by her granddaughter for her dedication and patience as a caregiver and in feeding the homeless in her community. "I hope that when I grow up and become a surgeon, I will help people with the same love as she does," her granddaughter wrote.
  • Laurent: The pilot for Spirit Airlines was nominated by his daughter for volunteering to fly a team of American doctors to Haiti to help them fight Covid-19. He also did a return flight full of stranded US citizens. "I am so proud of him for stepping forward to help!" his daughter wrote.

"Whether you're providing healthcare, keeping families stocked with food and supplies, or making sure cities keep running," American Girl writes on its website, "we owe you a huge thanks."

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