João Stanganelli Jr. is a 64-year-old Brazilian grandfather with a bright smile and kind nature. But when he was 38 years old, he noticed that his skin was becoming patchy. After visiting doctors, and undergoing tests, they determined that he was suffering from vitiligo.
Vitiligo is a disease that causes the loss of skin color in blotches on any part of the body. It can occur at any age, and the extent of it is unpredictable. Some may suffer from small patches of it, while others might have it affect their entire body, it can even affect the scalp and result in a loss of hair. While treatment can help the disease, there is no cure. João is one of more than 3 million people in Brazil who suffer from the disease.
But he never let his condition get him down, and continued to work hard until about a year ago, when he had to leave his job because of a heart condition.
Not one to sit around and do nothing, João decided that he needed a hobby to keep his mind busy. So and his wife decided to learn how to crochet. He said it was hard to learn, and he wanted to give it up at one point, but he kept at it, and in just over a week, he had crocheted his first doll.
Proud of what he had done, he decided he wanted to make something special for his granddaughter, so that when she looked at it, she would always remember he made it. So, he decided to crochet a doll with vitiligo, and he made a pretty little girl doll, with spots and uneven skin, and called her Vitilinda.
When he saw how people reacted to Vitilinda, he decided to make more, so he crocheted more dolls with vitiliago, but he also made dolls with alopecia, dolls in wheelchairs, bald dolls representing kids suffering from cancer, and dolls missing limbs. His goal with these dolls is simple, to help children who have these conditions feel good about themselves and to make them smile.
As word and photos spread on social media, João was sought after for TV appearances and interviews and in those interviews he always shares a very important message:
"The spots I have are beautiful. What hurts me are the flaws in people's characters."
He says knowing that people value his art warms his heart and he hopes that his dolls help people all over the world.