One woman in Maine gets regular shipments of body parts — arms, legs, even eyes — and these packages help brighten the holidays of children all over the country.
That's because Susan Olsen, a 63-year-old retired grandmother, spends countless hours finding and refurbishing used American Girl dolls. Some of them need a lot of tender loving care, and perhaps a replacement limb or two, before they're ready for a new home.
These 18-inch dolls, which have been around since the mid-1980s, are a mainstay of little kids' holiday wish lists. The company now offers a wide array of options, including dolls that look like you. The only problem is the price. The tremendously popular dolls retail for $115 each, and accessory packs start at an additional $20.
That puts them out of financial reach for many parents. And that's where Olsen comes in. After experiencing financial hardship herself when she was a young mother, she now uses her retirement to give back. Helping other families also gives her something to live for, she says.
She spends all year collecting used dolls from venues like Craigslist and Goodwill and fixing them up. Once they look nearly brand new, she gives the dolls away by way of a Reddit group devoted to helping families in need around the holidays.
"I love people, I love kids and I love helping," Olsen says. "I like being able to help parents have that special bond with their children. Give them that special gift."
All she asks in return, if it works out, is a photo of the child with the doll. "You see the smiles and the kids hugging their dolls or jumping up and down — that's what makes it worth it," Olsen says.
And this is gearing up to be her biggest year yet.