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American Girl dolls feature a hero with heart

The newest American Girl doll inspiration, RAA EMT April O’Quinn, is a guiding force for new and future EMS providers

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Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) EMT April O’Quinn was shocked to receive a call from her niece Lacey telling her she had been selected by American Girl as a hero on the frontlines for their “Heroes with Heart” contest..

Photo/April O’Quinn

EMS providers have taken center stage many times this year as national media outlets and retailers have honored the efforts of healthcare providers during the pandemic. EMTs and paramedics have been featured, notably, on the cover of “Time Magazine,” as action figures as part of the Mattel #ThankYouHeroes collection, and now in the form of an American Girl doll.

American Girl recently launched a “Heroes With Heart” contest, asking families to nominate a hero from the frontlines who has made a difference in their lives. Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) EMT April O’Quinn was shocked to receive a call from her niece Lacey telling her she had been selected.

Lacey had submitted a photo of O’Quinn, and answered questions about how her aunt was putting her health at risk to support her community. O’Quinn told EMS1 her family balances their fear over her health during this time, and worries about her being infected with COVID-19, with their pride for the job she does.

O’Quinn was kind enough to speak with me about her career and what the honor means to her.

Inspiring a younger generation

For O’Quinn, highlighting what EMS does every day – showing that people in EMS care for and help others – means the world. Showing children that EMS providers are “the good guys, right along with police and firefighters,” is important. “EMS tends to be the forgotten child in healthcare and among first responders,” she said. “There’s also a stigma that it’s a man’s world. I’m here as living proof that females can be and are as amazing as the men who work in this field.”

O’Quinn knows how important early influences can be on career decisions. She knew she wanted to be in healthcare by kindergarten. Originally setting her sights on nursing, she eventually decided the hospital setting wasn’t for her. “I wanted action and to be first on the scene,” she said. “I wanted to know that I did all I could from the get-go.”

And it’s a responsibility she takes seriously. O’Quinn expressed the look in the eyes of someone who truly needs her help is an indescribable feeling; “The thankful cry you see when you hand that baby over to a first-time mother. The gratefulness felt from the heart of the wife whose husband now has a pulse and is breathing on his own again, hoping he’ll continue to get better. The little girl who saw me outside of work and asked if I remembered being her angel as she told me that after responding to her call, I carried her to the ambulance and she held on, not breaking eye contact because she was scared she would die if she did. Countless stories like these are why I continue to put this uniform on day after day and pray for positive stories to add to my book on each shift.”

Her message to children with an interest in EMS? “Stay in school. Study hard and you can become anything you want. Don’t let anyone stop you from following your dreams and becoming who you want to be. Anyone can do this job if they put their mind to it.”

A guiding light

As a grand prize winner, O’Neill and Lacey received a custom-made American Girl doll in her likeness along with a $200 American Girl gift card. O’Quinn noted she is humbled to have been selected, and thanks American Girl for featuring EMS. “I am so thankful for what American Girl did with this contest and the work they’ve done to recognize frontline heroes.”

I asked O’Quinn what it means that her niece nominated her for this contest. “It’s the most amazing and wonderful honor ever, that even one person would look up to me just blows my mind,” she noted. “The fact that she believes in me and chose me is more then I could ever ask for from anyone.”

As for the future, O’Quinn sees a large portion of her paycheck devoted to American Girl dolls for her own girls if they continue to produce EMS themed dolls. As for the rest, she will continue doing what she loves, showing compassion for the citizens of Richmond, and guiding new and upcoming EMS providers, to “hopefully continue to be someone’s guiding light while leading way through these uncertain times.”

Congratulations to Lacey and April O’Quinn.

Read more: Va. EMT made into American Girl doll

Kerri Hatt is editor-in-chief, EMS1, responsible for defining original editorial content, tracking industry trends, managing expert contributors and leading execution of special coverage efforts. Prior to joining Lexipol, she served as an editor for medical allied health B2B publications and communities.

Kerri has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Joseph’s University, in Philadelphia. She is based out of Charleston, SC. Share your personal and agency successes, strategies and stories with Kerri at