By Angie Brant Cumberland Times-News, Md.
Kanoodle may be an unfamiliar word to many, but for one area woman, the term embodies an act that is often underestimated and not performed nearly enough.
According to Brenda Whitacre, kanoodle means "hug or to show affection" and she has created a new product that hugs its owners.
The one-of-a-kind product is based on her experiences as a mother and an adopted mother to others. After watching and seeing firsthand how much children love plush toys, Whitacre began to consider creating a toy that replicates a hug and came up with what she calls a Kanoodle.
She first began to consider the invention as she cared for her late daughter Jody who, at the age of 11 months, suffered a febrile seizure that resulted in lifelong developmental disabilities. As she cared for the child, Whitacre realized how much pleasure and comfort plush toys brought her daughter. Jody was unable to grasp or control toys and Whitacre realized that a toy that could "grasp" a person or object would be the perfect thing for children facing similar challenges.
Whitacre has never forgotten the joy Jody found in toys and she wanted to make that early concept a reality.
After more than a year of research and hard work, Whitacre has been awarded a provisional utility patent through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and she has begun production of Kanoodles.
"I spent every spare minute of my day reviewing the information of the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office preparing the application, but it was all worth it," she said with a huge smile.
In her patent application, Whitacre used the following description to explain her bid for a patent: Stuffed toys have been identified as transitional objects and comfort objects and may provide a sense of security. Children, adults and the elderly alike may also use and enjoy stuffed toys as a means to cope with stress and decrease loneliness.
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Whitacre is among more than 500,000 applicants each year, yet just a fraction of those applications are approved.
A registered nurse by profession, Whitacre has witnessed how such a simple act can transform a person.
Throughout her career and as she cared for Jody, Whitacre has been interested in developmental psychology and has used that knowledge as she refined her patent application. "My target audience is the age of 3 years and older and like the 'Beanie Babies' craze, I hope to attract all ages. I have been sharing prototypes with friends and family and everyone loves the Kanoodles," she said. "The versatility is that it can be attached, or can hug any object, i.e., backpacks, bicycles, bedposts, etc."
Whitacre is producing Kanoodles in a wide variety of characters and plans to offer local school colors and themes. One of the early favorites has been teddy bear Kanoodles, noting that no matter the age, "teddy bears never seem to go out of style."
She has created accounts with eBay and Paypal to facilitate online purchasing and has also distributed Kanoodles to several area businesses.
Whitacre has officially applied to be a candidate for the television show "Shark Tank," a reality competition series featuring aspiring entrepreneurs making business presentations to a panel of potential investors. She is hopeful her invention will capture the attention of the show's producers and looks forward to sharing her Kanoodles and her message with a broader audience.
Whitacre is working with students in the multimedia technology program at Allegany College of Maryland to create a promotional video for her new invention. Visit www.KanoodleHugs.com to view the promotional videos.
"I believe it is so important as a parent of any child to maximize their social, developmental and learning skills and abilities. I hope this toy encourages sharing and brings people of all ages joy and comfort," she added. "This is the only toy I know of that can actually hug you."
To see her creation come to life has been more rewarding than Whitacre could have ever imagined, but pales in comparison to the joy Whitacre experiences when she sees her Kanoodles bringing joy to others.
"The power of a hug is an amazing thing. It only takes a second," Whitacre said.
Kanoodles are now available at The Mail Room, LaVale; Under the Son, Cumberland; Hairway, Country Club Mall; and Kids Kingdom, Cresaptown.
For more information, send Whitacre a message at [email protected]