My name is Bo Bergemann and this is my daughter Bree. I am an award winning world renown original doll artist from Hawaii. Bree is a full time student. We are quite the dynamic duo in all things in life for 17 years now and we are hoping you will join us in our newest adventure!
My daughter, Bree, is deaf. Our family has lived her lifetime trying to help her grow skills in both expressive and receptive communication so she can effectively connect with others and our world. Communication and connection are so important to a person's spiritual, emotional, physical & psychological well being. Something most of us take for granted. I know I did before I met my daughter. Communication is also the key to learning and education which is key to growth and independence.
I took care of some of Hawaii's most medically fragile foster babies for 15 years, during which time I fostered a sweet baby girl who was deaf that stole our family's hearts. So, when she became adoptable, we were very grateful and immediately made her our own! A lot has happened in the years since, but the journey to assist her to communicate and connect with the world is a demanding, continuing and ongoing process for us all.
At her request, she and I recently moved to Fremont, CA for her to be able to attend one of the nation's leading schools for the deaf. It is an American Sign Language (ASL) immersion program. She wanted to go there because she wanted to be with other kids who are also deaf and to be immersed in an ASL and visual learning environment. The opportunities for her abound in this environment, so we are very grateful she is attending there now. She is an A student and we are all very proud of her! This is one of only a handful of such school in the USA doing a really great job for the deaf and hard of hearing today.
Sadly, the opportunities for deaf children to learn and grow in ASL (American Sign Language) usage are far and few between in most other places nowadays. Even in the USA of today. American Sign Language and it's very real impact upon those who need it is far too misunderstood. The resources are few. The demand is spread out, not centralized, so no one is as aware of, nor well informed nor enabled as is truly needed, in my opinion from our own experience.
I believe something as simple as a doll can make a huge difference! Realizing the deficit between ASL educational opportunities and the real need in most communities in the USA Today, I decided to make an ASL doll. Anyone can role play with and learn to communicate using such a doll. Dolls can go into homes, workplaces, vehicles as well as educational and therapeutic environments where the children who need to learn ASL are. Dolls are simple early developmental stage tools to teach both communication and connection. Key reasons for American Sign Language to be taught to the deaf, hard of hearing, and other non-verbal children through dolls.
Check out this brief video which shows the preliminary prototype in action!
There is a longer video with more to it at the bottom of this campaign explanation. Read on for more detailed facts.
What Makes Me Think I Can Do This?
I have been making dolls for 25 years. I've run a successful business selling my fine art dolIs for 7 years now. I also created my own award winning vinyl doll line known as Trendy & Swag which won Dolls Magazine's Industries Choice Play Doll of the year in 2015 & 2016 as well as People's Choice in the latter beating out others worldwide in the 18" Play Doll category. I designed, sculpted, produced, fulfilled and oversaw every aspect of this line. So, I know the industry and have the skillset, connections and experience to make this happen. Frankly, so do companies like AG or other well known doll companies. But, I also have the desire to see this very real need of the deaf & non-verbal communities met. These two factors work together to make me uniquely qualified for this project.
If you would like to learn more about me and my qualifications, take a look at Dolls Magazine cover & feature article Oct 2017, or Stampington Art Dolls (both the current issue and the first one out in 2018 have articles on me now). Hawaiian Airlines Award Winning HanaHou magazine, Puppen Speilzig in Germany and many other magazines from around the world have featured me and my work for years now. I own my own gallery on the North Shore of Oahu in the famous surf town of Haleiwa. See video below or Check out my website at www.BoBergemann.com.
Important & Realistic Goals:
My sincere hope is to use these truly unique patent pending dolls to meet three goals. I will move through the following goals in sequential order as time, energy and funding is made available to do so.
1) Produce & Deliver a valuable educational tool (ASL Educational Tool Version DOLLS) to qualified therapists and teachers to help them teach ASL to young children in need in a hands on fun and interactive way.
2) Produce and offer an affordable, child safety tested, actual toy version ASL doll to be enjoyed in the homes of the deaf, hard of hearing and others who may benefit, like autistic children who do not speak and other non-verbal people (with various underlying causes of their being unable to speak). If a child can not vocalize but can use their hands, ASL will work for them!
3)Raise ASL understanding and awareness toward it's more generalized incorporation in US society in general. I hope these will help educate the public, raising awareness of the need for effective ASL instruction and immersion education throughout the USA and wherever the deaf, hard of hearing and non-verbal live. For example: I'm hoping all states will begin Incorporating at least one ASL immersive special ed classroom and instructor into at least one school in each community ASAP as a result of serious reconsideration of needs for ASL instruction. If this really takes off as I hope. Then I hope it will spawn more people to champion making such opportunities a reality in every community in the USA. Finally, I firmly believe ASL Dolls can be enjoyed by hearing toddlers too since most are only partially verbal. Interactive role play with ASL dolls will actually heightened any toddler's later success in communication including such subjects in school as writing (a real struggle point in education in the US today.)
Raising a child with the challenges being deaf can create is expensive in time, energy and money. I know. I've worked hard at my career in order to help make sure our daughter has every advantage at her disposal. She is blessed to have many opportunities that so many do not have, simply because my husband and I have been able to work very hard, save hard and make sacrifices to obtain these opportunities for her. We both work 90+ hour weeks regularly. I have also homeschooled her for much of her schooling because the opportunities for her to meet her own potential where we lived when she was growing up were sub par or non-existent. A sad truth in many places in the USA Today. I'm grateful the opportunities she needs now are available here where we live in California although it has cost our family dearly to make this move in order for this to happen for her. She is worth it!
But, I know many families are not able to do the same for many and various good reasons. I also know that as much as I long to be able to, our family simply can not afford to move this project forward any further completely on our own at this time.
I've done as much as I can afford to put the time, energy and money into at this point entirely on my own out of love and longing to help others. I will carry on in every way it's possible for me to do so in my passion to help those in need. Just to be clear, my own daughter is long past the communication stages these dolls are meant to help teach. Yet, I've poured a year of my life in addition to tens of thousands of dollars into this project to get it this far. Now, I realize it's time I simply must ask for others who are willing and able, to help me take this project to fruition.
Next Steps Needed . . . We have a preliminary prototype!
I created a preliminary prototype in the form of an original fine art doll using a resin BJD created entirely by me as my medium. You can learn more, see photos and video of this original fine art doll in action and get more info. on all of this by watching the 10 minute video below which has a lot more to it than the mini video at the top of this campaign.
What We Need Now...
My goals are lofty and come with a price tag to match. But, every little bit will help us move toward our goals because I am not one to give up easily when I'm passionate about something.
Progress toward Goal #1: I am doing more work on my preliminary prototype to add changing face plates for expressive faces since facial expression is a huge part of American Sign Language communication. This will result in the educational and therapeutic tool once every additional part needed is complete to include the 20+ words and letters the doll can already express plus keywords like Who, What, When, Where, Why & How, all the vowels, top 10 key consonants for early spelling and another 10+ early conversational word hand shapes. Once this next more advanced prototype is designed and complete, it should be very close to the educational therapeutic tool we hope to offer ready for production.
Progress toward Goal #2 & 3 will be dependent on first meeting goal #1.
The toy version doll is a whole other story, but one I believe needs to be told. The bottom line is toys can become trends and trends sincerely effect the entire population. My earnest hope is to create and offer a toy doll that will become a trend such that over the next decade every household in the USA will be learning "basic simple conversational and emergency needs" words commonly used in American Sign Language! This would of course make a huge impact on goal #3!
USA Toy Testing standards must be met which are expensive. Molds for vinyl doll pieces and parts are in the tens of thousands per piece. This doll will have 23 pieces to make up the fully jointed body, add the back of the head and at least 3 expressive face plates and 25+ hands, will mean over 50 molds at thousands of dollars each! Plastic may be a better & more affordable medium via new 3d printing tech. I'm looking into all of it now. Either route will be used to bring down end per piece costs to a point at which most Americans can afford such dolls for their children. Now you know why I'd love for an angel investor to jump in to support this cause!
Any amount you can spare will help bring this project to fruition. I will simply proceed as funding comes in for each step forward to be completed. If you can give $5 and tell your friends about our campaign here, you will be a huge help to whom we, and those who will be truly helped by these, will be grateful!
I'm hoping to raise the $775,000 needed to successfully and quickly meet goals 1 & 2 for limited initial offerings large enough to make them affordable. The higher number of product in an initial run, though it may be more expensive to set up, results in the eventual per piece costs going down.
Impact. . .
I honestly believe there is a real market in the USA for the toy version with ALL children even those who can hear since learning ASL as a baby and toddler actually increases brain connections and communication potential making for little ones who get along better and have a real advantage in education throughout their lives. In fact, I believe the entire USA education system should be looking to use ASL in head start programs because then I believe kids who are at risk will become kids who are exceeding potential!
Obviously this project has far greater ramifications and long term potential than there is time or space to discuss here. In time, every deaf and hard of hearing child as well as autistic and other non-verbal children could be able to easily readily obtain their own doll if this all works out as well as I sincerely hope! Hearing babies & toddlers and their parents who want to communicate with them better will want a beautiful doll to help them learn ASL, gaining brain connections early that will help throughout their education as well. All while simply playing dolls! Wonderful stop motion videos and role play videos could be made to add to teaching potential as well. Then, we can up production to bring down per piece pricing over time. ASL is actually fast becoming THE sign language used in many countries besides the USA. It is also the 4th most studied language in the USA. However, we could also make BSL (British Sign Language) and other country versions in time as well.
In the meantime, looking at goal #3 Raising ASL Awareness in US culture, I sincerely hope this campaign and the next steps after it will help expand the American people's awareness and understanding of the key that ASL truly is to potential for the deaf and non-verbal people of this world. Including everyone's own babies and toddlers!
ASL has potential to open up a world of communication and connection for so many! Cochlear implants are not necessarily the answer, as we ourselves found out. Without going into too much detail here, suffice it to say putting a cochlear implant on a deaf person can sometimes be very much like putting glasses on a blind person. There is so much more to it than simple mechanics and digital solutions can actually make up for. Visual education in an ASL and congruent spoken language immersion program is truly the answer here.
Other ways to help . . .
1) Check out www.BoBergemann.com to see a very special offer to purchase an original artist doll named Alice on pre-order now. This doll will come with just a handful of ASL hand shapes like those shown in the video as my first stage preliminary prototype here to showcase how exactly this is all meant to work for those who want to see/touch/feel and try in person. This Special Limited Edition Signed Artist Doll BJD Pre-Order will run contingent to this Indiegogo campaign and I will be donating a portion of my proceeds to this endeavor. So, if you would like to buy a doll on pre-order now to be fulfilled next Spring please do so at www.BoBergemann.com. I have a flawless reputation for delivering on time as promised ALWAYS! And in this case you will be purchasing through my own business website, so you will be a customer and have an order I will also fulfill on time as promised as I've done for 7 years straight now!
Something everyone can do to help is . . .
2) Please Share this campaign with others. This first doll showcased here is named Alice after the little girl whose charming personality and intelligence inspired Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet to begin teaching her Sign Language which later lead to the start of the first ASL immersion school in America. That man cared sincerely for someone he was not even related to. Please choose to do the same!
Please join with my daughter and I in the same spirit of caring and connection Thomas Hopkins Gauladet had that saw Alice's very real need to connect and communicate so he did something to meet it. Please partner with us here today.
Every little bit, whether awareness is increased or funding is increased, helps! So, even if you can't give now, share this to your FB page, your other social networks and maybe someone it reaches can! In the end AWARENESS of a problem is key to the beginning of it's solution! Everyone who sees this can share it which will help with goal #4 at the very least.
Together, we can truly make a difference in the life of someone who might otherwise live a separated and unnecessarily disconnected lonely life in which their own potential is simply never realized or even explored. The fact this is still so prevalent in modern America today is truly sad and unacceptable. Please join with us to make a real difference today!