Limavady boy inspires Donegal company’s astronaut companion doll

Young Hayden and the astronaut doll he inspired.

Young Limavady boy and space fanatic, Hayden Geraghty inspires new astronaut companion doll after Lottie Dolls hear his amazing story...

As young Hayden watched intently as Tim Peake blasted off to the International space station, it was a momentous event for more reasons than one for the Geraghtys, as young Hayden joined in the countdown.

Up until that point the then five-year-old had been virtually non-verbal, diagnosed with autism and ADHD, but his love for space began to open Hayden to new worlds of possibility.

After meeting his hero, astronaut Tim Peake and rubbing elbows with space exploration’s finest Brian Cox, Donegal-based company Lottie Dolls caught wind of Hayden’s journey and were inspired to create Astronaut Loyal Companion Doll Finn.

Managing Director of Lottie Dolls, Ian Harkin told the Derry Journal how they wanted to create a wholesome doll, that reflected a realistic body image to a child. To emphasize that “childhood should be an inclusive place, where every child belongs regardless of gender, ethnicity or ability”.

“We heard Hayden’s story from Irish Space Explorer Dr Niamh Shaw and decided we had to meet him. What Hayden didn’t know was that accompanying Tim Peake on his Principal Mission, was our Stargazer Lottie Doll. So creating a doll inspired by him brought that journey full circle.”

After working closely with Hayden and his mum Caroline, the Lottie team had an eye-opening experience educating themselves on the finer details of autism. Designing accessories such as an autism companion dog with bandana and Hayden’s iconic red ear defenders.

Caroline said the Lottie team consulted them every step of the way, making Hayden’s dream of wanting a ‘toy like me’ a reality.

“Hayden was over the moon when he heard about the Lottie doll.

“Before he could speak, we often used dolls to communicate with Hayden. We realised there was a huge gap in the market for toys we could relate to.

“The whole ethos of Lottie Dolls is to design toys with meaning and was something we were keen to be involved in. We want to normalise autism and teach children to accept differences.”

A toy aimed at every kid, Lottie Dolls don’t make mention of autism anywhere on the packaging. Instead they include a well-researched leaflet for children to discover as they play.

Ian Harkin said, “Autism isn’t a visual illness, so we want kids to buy the doll first because it’s cool and then afterwards learn that it has a purpose. To discover that every aspect and accessory has a meaning.”

Delighted with the final product, Caroline said Hayden’s surprise didn’t stop there. “He thought it was just one doll. When we told him this doll would be sent worldwide, for children ever where to learn about his story, his eyes grew and grew.”

Hayden’s next dream is for his Astronaut Companion Doll to live up to its name and accompany Tim Peake on his next trip to space. It seems the sky’s the limit for young Hayden Geraghty.

Follow Hayden’s out of this world journey on Twitter at #Astronaut_Hayden.

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