“The daddy doll is a military stuffed doll with my husband’s military picture inside,” Jessica Osborne wrote in a Facebook post, adding, “We use it often when he trains and she isn’t able to see or speak to him.”
“When our brave military men and women go off to serve our country, they leave behind the family and friends who love them,” explains online retailer Huggee Miss You, which sells a version of the keepsake it calls the “soft military doll.”
“Whether they’re in the navy, air force, marines, or army, they will have a soft-bodied doll that comforts them and reminds them of you,” the retailer says.
“The doll is a coping mechanism when my daughters cannot physically see their dad or speak with him,” Osborne told The Epoch Times. “Being able to physically see a photo of him helps ease their mind and makes bed time a bit easier.”
The mother-of-three said her 3-year-old daughter lost the doll sometime on Friday, July 12, while the family was out and about in Lebanon.
“She is devastated,” Osborne said.
She told Fox 19 that her husband recently left for Virginia to train with the Kentucky National Guard and she planned to use the doll to help her daughter cope with being away from her father.
“Before he leaves, we have a pep talk about it to build understanding and then we have activities or attend events to keep busy,” Osborne told The Epoch Times. “This helps get them through the day. Bed time is a bit harder, but we are working on it.”
“While he is away, it’s also hard on the spouse,” Osborne added. “I try to stay strong so that they stay strong.
When the doll went missing on Friday, the military mom did what she could to get it back, including sharing her story on social media.
“My toddler lost her daddy doll on Friday,” Osborne explained on Facebook. “We were at LaRosa’s, Dairy Queen on Columbus Ave.”
Her post has been shared over 4,000 times, with some commenters kindly offering to get a replacement if the daddy doll isn’t found.
“We are a guard family,” one commenter wrote. “I would be honored to sponsor the purchase of a replacement doll. Please let me know.”
“I’d like to offer to buy her a new one if you don’t find it soon!” someone else wrote. “I know how important these are to our children!”
“Praying it is returned to you,” wrote another commenter. “Thank you for your husband’s service and your sacrifices as well.”
Osborne said she is overwhelmed by the response to her post and has been “crying happy tears.”
“I was not expecting my post to go viral and I was taken by surprise by the amount of love and support, the amount of shares we’ve had,” she said, adding, “I am just in awe that people we don’t know are out physically looking for our missing daddy doll.”
“We just feel so blessed,” she said. “Huge shout out to everyone who has helped. Thank you times a million.”
Different retailers sell different versions of the huggable doll that aims to help children cope with separation from loved ones.
Two military wives, Tricia and Nikki, founded a company called Daddy Dolls “after witnessing first hand how hard military deployments were on our children.”
“With both of our husbands being Marines and both having been deployed twice in less than two years, the absence of daddy was beginning to take its toll on our own children as well as those of dear friends,” the duo said on their website.
“We wanted to find some way to make the separation easier for our sons and daughters while keeping their fathers close to their hearts and in their prayers.”
“Our children not only play with their Daddy Dolls, but also rely on them for strength during trying times like doctor’s visits or when they need an ‘owie’ kissed,” they added.
“Sometimes only that distant loved one will do! They have also become a part of story time and grocery shopping.”
The two founders said they have expanded their line of dolls to help children cope with different types of separation from loved ones, including business trips, divorce, bereavement, and incarceration.