Kids & Family

'Daddy Dolls' Help Military Families Cope With Family Separation

You have to see the children’s sweet reactions when they get a plush version of their parent to cuddle with.


Nothing can take the place of a parent who's far away. Military moms Tricia Dyal and Nikki Darnell know this well. Their spouses are in the military, and they've had to deal with their children's stress and anxiety when their fathers are gone, often for months at a time.

After years of wiping tears from their kids' faces when Daddy leaves, Dyal and Darnell wanted to come up with an idea to help families adjust when a parent is suddenly absent from their lives. After some heavy brainstorming, and creative input from Dyal's crafty Aunt Mary, “Daddy Dolls" was born.

(Source: YouTube )

Now fifteen years later, hundreds of thousands of Daddy (and Mommy!) Dolls have been shipped all over the world to help young children cope and give them strength when a parent or loved one is gone for an extended period of time.

"The biggest fear wasn't that he was going to get hurt while he was over there, it was that his kids weren't going to know who he was when he got back," Dyal told WITN . "I think the reality of that is pretty big and to have the doll and to have that part of our every day, it meant alot to our family."

The dolls are plush and huggable, and they come in two sizes: small and large. The person buying the doll provides a head-to-toe photo of their spouse (often in their military uniform), which is then printed on the doll's fabric along with a custom message, such as “Daddy Loves You." You can even add a voice recording with a 20 second, personalized greeting.

Daddy Dolls Facebook

Each doll is custom-printed and hand sewn by Dyal and Darnell in Cheboygan, MI, so each product is truly made in the USA. The dolls are made to last with durable fabrics, and they're machine washable.

The dolls are not limited to military families. Anyone that has a spouse or family member that is gone for long stretches of time can find the dolls useful. That includes divorced parents, grandparents who live across the country, even pets that have passed away – all can provide the comfort a child needs when someone they love is no longer in their lives every day.

Daddy Dolls Facebook

Since starting the company in 2005, Daddy Dolls (also called "Hug-A-Hero" dolls) have helped countless families deal with the stress of a missing parent. The website's “Fan Page" is filled with hundreds of photos of children snuggling with their dolls.

Even though it's far from the real thing, sometimes a cuddle with a stuffed version of the one you love is just as good.

Here's one more reaction video from a happy Daddy Doll customer....is there anything sweeter?

The dolls cost $24.95 - $64.95 + shipping and handling. Click here to learn more and purchase a doll. You can even purchase a gift card for someone you think might benefit from having a Hug-A-Hero Doll at home.

If you don't need a doll, there are plenty of other ways to support military families. You can send letters or care packages , volunteer with an organization that serves a military community (like Wounded Warriors or Heroes on the Water ), and shop at military businesses .

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