Daddy Dolls Hug a Hero Doll Military Children Nikki Darnell Tricia Dyal

‘Daddy Dolls’ Comfort Military Kids

Approximately 1.2 million children belong to families with active duty military personnel; 40 percent are under the age of 5. The stress of separation, the disruption in routines, the anxiety the at-home parent feels can all have a serious impact on a young child.

‘Daddy Dolls’ (or Hug A Hero Dolls) are the brainchild of two military moms, Tricia Dyal and Nikki Darnell, who make them in Nikki’s basement as a way to keep the deployed parent in the mind of the child.

The unique Dolls and other objects or traditions can help kids deal with the absence of a parent.

Recommended by child psychologists, Hug-A-Hero™ dolls have helped thousands of children cope with the stresses of separation. Whether you are deployed with the military or a grandparent living across the country, Hug-A-Hero™ dolls will keep you close to their hearts and just a cuddle away.

Each doll comes with:

  • A personalized photo of dad on the front – many are done from pictures of daddy in uniform.
  • A personalized message(up to 18 characters) on the front like “Daddy Loves You”
  • Your choice of 8 fabrics
  • A keepsake pocket on the back to store a special note or trinket from dad
  • An option to ‘double the huggs'(L- $38.95, S – $31.95) by adding a second picture on the back
  • An optional voice recorder($7.95) that stores a personalized message from dad

Experts say that children under the age of 1 might become confused or even upset at hearing dad’s voice come from a doll, but the soothing presence of another significant adult makes all the difference. And for most kids, an object with an image of a deployed parent can bring comfort or help them express anger or sadness.

Please visit the Hug-a-hero site for more info




About the author

Lisa Arneill

Mom of 2 boys and founder of and World Traveled Family. When I'm not running around after my boys, I'm looking for our next vacation spot!


  • Hello there! Thank you for covering our Hug-a-Hero dolls. They are wonderful! We also offer a non-profit side that reaches out to military families that cannot afford a doll or that loses their Hero and provide dolls FREE to these families. Please see our website for more information. You can help by donating, sponsoring a child or holding a fundraiser. If you put together a fundraiser, we would reach out to families in need in your area.


  • For those of you who like the idea of the Daddy doll, theres the original HUGGEE MISS YOU doll, made long before Daddy dolls were on the market. These 12 inch plush toys allow you to put a picture in the face of the doll of a family member, friend, or anyone you like. My kids have had both the Daddy doll and the HUGGEE MISS YOU doll and they prefer the HUGGEE MISS YOU dolls everytime. Unlike the large bulky Daddy dolls the HUGGEE MISS YOU dolls are the perfect size for a kid plus there AFFORDABLE!! Running from 10.95-15.95. The company Hugs to Go which makes HUGGEE MISS YOU also works with a charity called OPERATION GIVE A HUG that donates dolls for free to deployed troops. Stick with HUGGEE MISS YOU, there cuter, practical, and most of all affordable!

  • I agree with Janice. My kids have both HUGGEE MISS YOU and Daddy doll and they like there HUGGEE MISS YOU much more. They are all around better dolls.

  • Proud Military Spouses:

    I serve on the Board of OPERATION Hug-A-Hero ( that was established by the founders of Daddy Dolls, Inc., the creator of the trademarked “Daddy Doll.” Through OPERATION Hug-A-Hero we offer the Hug-A-Hero doll at no cost. We are able to do so through the generous support of individual donors, corporations like The Gap and PepsiCo, military spouses clubs from around the world, and military families that want to give to other military families that walk in their same shoes. We want you to know that we would love to put a Hug-A-Hero doll in the arms of your child or someone else’s child that you know is struggling with separation or deployment. A quick visit to our website is all that it takes or you can contact us at!

    What makes the Hug-A-Hero doll unique is that it is made by the loving hands of military spouses, friends and family members here in the USA. This really brings what we do, and why we do it, full circle! In addition to our passionate and skilled workforce, we utilize high quality materials to create soft dolls with a head-to-toe image of your family’s hero that is huggable, durable and machine washable. It is this quality,and our attention to detail, that has been noted time and again by the families that receive our dolls. It is also special for a child to show off his mommy or daddy, proudly in uniform, on our dolls. I can tell you from personal experience that it is very moving to see a child with a doll like that and not something that looks more like a toy. In fact, that is how I came to know about OPERATION Hug-A-Hero. I met a child on an airplane who had a Hug-A-Hero doll. He told me all about his daddy who was serving in Iraq. He was so proud of his daddy and told me all about what his daddy does in the Army and how he takes care of his mommy while his daddy is gone. It was all I could do to keep myself together and I knew I had to get involved!

    While the intentions of all of the organizations that provide coping gifts to our children are as genuine and pure as ours, many of these other items are not produced with as much dedication or attention to detail as the Hug-A-Hero doll. We could make a similar product at a much lower cost if we had the dolls manufactured in another country, but our dolls are for Americans and we want them to be made by Americans – Americans who care as much as we do about the purpose of the doll and the quality of the doll that cuddle your children. That is also why the Hug-A-Hero doll does not have any frills or decoration. Our focus is on the mommy or daddy, just as your child would see him or her walk through the door after a hard day’s work.

    Interestingly we get asked about the HUGGEE MISS YOU doll often, and are sometimes confused with the Operation Give a Hug organization as well.

    While our dolls are different in their look, the materials that are used, where and how they are made, there is no doubt that our goals are the same. We both exist to provide an item of comfort and remembrance to honor the children of those who serve. We both rely upon the generosity of others so that we can give away our dolls to those who cannot otherwise afford them. And we do it in the hopes that there will be fewer tears shed each night because your child is clinging to one of our dolls.

    We would love to hear from you or your Family Readiness Coordinator as to how we can help your family or someone else if you would like a Hug-A-Hero doll.

    Thanks for all that you do!

    Stephanie Crabb
    Director of Development
    OPERATION Hug-A-Hero

  • First as the creator of HUGGEE MISS YOU I wish to thank all our wonderful supporters and bloggers for telling what hundreds of thousands have said before. HUGGEE MISS YOU is the best! As far as ANYONE stating that only Americans can make a product that is fit for an American child to hug should be ashamed of themselves. What prejudice that is. We all are equal in my eyes and in G-ds and unless you are Indian no one is “American”. Any business that is honest knows they cannot state their product is 100% made in America just assembled in America. Unless they actually made the fabric, ink, stuffing, the sound recorder, the plastic bag, the labels themselves, most are made either in China or another country. I can only speak for HUGGEE MISS YOU that we use only the finest high end safety tested fabrics and products to use in our beautiful plush doll. We also do extensive laboratory testing that we have serious concerns others do not. Please as consumers ask what testing has been done a on product your child will sleep and play with. As for where a product is made we would love to have everything made in America but then we would not be able to stay in business as the price would be over 5 times what it is. We are proud to help others make a living no matter their ethnicity or background. We do our part in America in the hundreds of other ways we can while supplying all those we so care about a fantastic, safe wonderful seriously needed product. Since 1999 we have a perfect customer service record. That says it all. As for the charities out there everyone always make sure it is up and up. Ask who is on the board? If a charity is set up to sell their product only and the administrators are the owners of the product they raise money for….conflict of interest at the very least. We only will recommend They started well before most, backed by the Army, ALL volunteers, NO conflict of interest. They have helped over 300,000 children. Check them out and you will see why. Augustin ask for. Thank you again and I cannot say it again how much I admire, respect and honor all of my military families. MUCH HUGGS XOXO Audrey Storch

  • I had a daddy doll made for my daughter (15 months when he left) before my husband deployed (first for her). After he was gone for a year she remembered him and ran up to him as soon as she saw him. Now that we are expecting our second child we will have a second daddy doll made in hope that this one will know who he is when he returns home. I think every military family should get these for their small children they help the kids remembers when they are gone. Thank you to those who make these wonderful dolls! Because of you our children remember the love ones away from home for so long.

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