By Hayley Pugh
The heartwarming moment a little boy received a special doll of his navy hero daddy has been caught on camera.
The tear-jerking reaction of three-year-old Austin Mitchell as he opens his unique present and realises what it is is truly moving.
Austin, from Dundee, looks up to his daddy, Barry Mitchell, but being an able seaman in the Navy he is often uncontactable – submerged underwater in a submarine for months on end.
The adorable toddler struggled with not being able to speak to him until mum, Rebecca Mitchell, came across the personalised dolls created by Norfolk-based company Huggable Heroes.
In the heartwarming footage Austin eyes light up as he realises what it is and shouts “it’s daddy!” before giving the doll a tight squeeze for several seconds.
Rebecca, who runs a children’s messy play business in Tayside, said: “Every night Austin would ask me where his daddy was.
“It’s so hard telling a three-year-old he can’t see his dad and even harder trying to explain he can’t speak to him because he is underwater.
“I wasn’t sure what he was going to do when I gave him the doll but his reaction actually made me really emotional.
“You can hear my voice crack a little in the video.
“He takes it everywhere with him now. His nursery don’t usually allow comfort items but they have made a special exception for this.
The special doll was created by Huggable Heroes – a company based in Norfolk, which lovingly hand makes each cuddly toy to order
The ‘heroes’ feature a picture of the child’s loved one and are the perfect size for youngsters to carry around with them.
Mum-of-two, Jo Lomax, first launched Huggable Heroes in 2015 after making one of the dolls for a friend’s little girl whose father was about to be deployed for six months.
She then went on to make one for her own children, three-year-old Henry and five-year-old Charlotte and realised how much they helped with separation anxiety from their own Royal Marine dad, Mikey.
The 33-year-old runs the business from her mum’s kitchen in Swaffham alongside her mum, nan and aunt.
The company create little heroes for all sorts of families including those in the armed forces, children who live far away from grandparents and other relatives, children separated by illness and hospital stays and families coming to terms with the death of a loved one.
Jo said: “Seeing the reaction from children and their families is amazing. It makes me really emotional to the point of crying most days.
“I just know how much it helped my children with their separation anxiety and their relationship with their dad. So to be able to do the same for other families is just amazing.”