This North Carolina company makes hug-a-hero dolls to help comfort children.

Sometimes, it's hard to know what to say or do for kids whose parents are serving in the military. Sometimes, all they really need is a hug from mom or dad.

Daddy Dolls, based in Jacksonville, North Carolina, may not quite be the real deal, but it's certainly a thoughtful gift that will put a smile on these children's' faces. "Daddy Dolls was created in 2005.  My daughters were ages three and nine months when my husband, Justin Dyal, left for deployment.  Just two weeks after he left, both girls had to be hospitalized due to an illness.  Our three-year-old, Elena Grace, cried and cried for her Daddy so I reached out to her great aunt, who was a seamstress, and asked her to create a doll pillow for my daughters from a picture I had.  The girls kept their doll with them all the time," Tricia Dyal, owner and founder of Daddy Dolls, Inc., shared with Southern Living.

"When Justin returned home from deployment he came into Elissa Faith's bedroom, still in uniform. Elissa Faith, who was now walking and talking, looked at her doll, looked at her daddy, looked back at the doll and tossed it down, raised her arms and said 'Daddy," recalled Dyal. To this day, Justin believes his daughter wouldn't have recognized him had it not been for the doll.  "When I realized how much the dolls were helping my girls, my friend friend Nikki and I created Daddy Dolls (aka Hug-A-Hero dolls)," Dyal continued. "After witnessing the impact these dolls had on our children, it immediately became our mission to get as many dolls as possibly into the hands of children missing their hero," she added.

Since the first doll  came to be 15 years ago, Tricia and Nikki have have now helped hundreds of thousands of military families across the globe. While the name is Daddy's Dolls, the dolls are intended to help children with deployed loved ones, be it a daddy, mommy, grand parent, sibling, etc.  Now, with the recent deployment of many North Carolina troops, Dyal and her team are working hard to get dolls into the hands of kids, as we learned from the Charlotte Observer. First, the studio orchestrated a weekly drawing to gift dolls to local families, but they've had over 500 requests come in for the dolls. With demand rising, Dyal is hoping to work with non-profits and sponsorships to be able to give even more dolls away to families who can't afford them.

If you'd like to help, you can visit or email

A gift of $25 sponsors a hug-a-hero doll for kids, and in addition to the military, you can choose to sponsor a doll for civilian children or hospitalized children. What a heartwarming and thoughtful way to give back.