Senior Kaeli Whitener showcases her Squishmallow collection

Everyone has a hobby, whether that hobby is painting, writing, reading or collecting. In the case of one Baker University student, a hobby is collecting cute and huggable plushies.

Senior Kaeli Whitener currently has over 60 Squishmallows. Squishmallows, created by Kelly Toys, are unique plush toys that come in various designs, colors and animals. While stuffed animals have been around for generations, what makes Squishmallows unique is that each Squishmallow is given its own storyline and name. There are currently over 500 Squishmallows to collect.

According to the official Squishmallow website “Kellytoy created the line of loveable buddies from super soft, marshmallow-like texture and polyester and come in a variety of sizes.”

While Whitener currently has over 60 Squishmallows, she got her first one when she was still in high school. This one was given to her as a gift, which she loved so much that she went on to purchase more.

Courtesy of Kaeli Whitener

“I love Squishmallows because they are so cute and comforting. I love how unique each one is,” Whitener said.

Whitener runs both an Instagram account and a Tik Tok account dedicated to Squishmallows and other things she finds interesting.

Since the inception of her collection, Whitener speculates that she has spent anywhere from $750-$1000. While she has spent large amounts of money on her collection, the amount of joy that her collection gives her, makes it worth it.

Over winter break, Whitener was able to greatly expand her collection.

“I worked at Target over winter break and then had to quarantine,” Whitener said. “Because of this, I got paid for the two weeks that I would have worked if I had not had to quarantine.” Whitener used this as an opportunity to add to her collection of plushies.

Another reason why Whitener loves collecting Squishmallows is how progressive the company is.

“I love how inclusive they are… I have two that are nonbinary and one that is transgender,” Whitener said. Whitener appreciates how the company is doing more than other companies in regards to LGBTQ+ representation.

Whitener’s rarest Squishmallow is Jack the Black Cat, which was released as part of the select series. Only 500 were made, which makes Jack extremely rare. Whitener also has many exclusives dedicated to certain businesses or brands, such as Target, Disney and even Cracker Barrel.

Whitener’s boyfriend, Senior Zaid Gratz has been supportive in her love for Squishmallows. Gratz loves how happy Whitener’s collection makes her.

Courtesy of Kaeli Whitener

“It’s such a sweet hobby and they are so comfortable,” Gratz said. Jack the Black Cat was one of many Squishmallows that Gratz has gifted to Whitener.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Squishmallows found large amounts of attention on social media, mostly on Tik Tok. Whitener believes that attention on Tik Tok has greatly contributed to the immense success of the company, making them much harder to find. Whitener is glad that the company has found so much success and attention online.

Whitener’s next step in her collection is to donate Squishmallows to the children at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

“I plan on saving some more money and buying them for the children who could use some comfort,” Whitener said.

Squishmallows are available through most major retailers and Whitener’s collection can be found at @sleepy_islander on Instagram and @sleepy_island on Tik Tok.