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Helping Underprivileged Children by Donating Barbies and Other Toys

As founder of The Barbie Girls Project, Natasha donates new and gently used Barbie dolls to girls in need in Central Indiana.

Because every girl deserves to be a Barbie girl!

Because every girl deserves to be a Barbie girl!

A Lesson in Playing With Barbie Dolls

Originally, my idea for helping children in need grew out of my childhood interest in Barbie dolls. What I do today I owe in part to my daughter as we sorted through her doll collection one day. Not only did she have dolls of her own, but also my old dolls that I'd had from the time I was her age. We talked about giving away a few of them that she no longer wanted. And it got me to thinking: Does Mattel have any sort of charity for girls? Or are there any Barbie-doll lovers out there who created charitable groups? With that in mind, I decided to check online to see what information I could find about charities surrounding the iconic Barbie Doll.

I quickly discovered that there are several groups around the U.S. and abroad that are focused on finding gently used Barbies that they donate to girls from needy families. What I did not find was a group that did so in my geographical area. Armed with the notion to accomplish something that would give back to the community as well as the environment, I decided to try our luck with donating gently used Barbies to underprivileged girls in our city. My thought was, not only would my daughter and I have fun working together as a team, but I would be teaching her compassion and selflessness in a unique and engaging way.

Seeing a Need, Filling a Need

What I liked about the other Barbie groups out there is that they all do more than just donate any old doll. Each doll is carefully groomed, dressed, and accessorized, then put into a draw-string bag that serves as a gift bag as well as a travel tote to carry Barbie in for on-the-go play. What little girl wouldn't love that?

Of course, there are tons of new dolls to be bought too. Every major holiday season is proof of this. But there are usually the same number of used dolls and other toys in thrift stores at rummage and garage sales, which are inevitably donated or thrown out. Why not give little girls a chance to love them a second (or even third) time around before the dolls bite the dust? I learned from experience that children are just as eager to receive gifts that come without brand-new packaging. Gifting gently-used items (tastefully done) saves parents the hassle of undoing those annoying twist ties and useless plastic tags that seem to never fully come out of the back of a doll's head!

No Wrong Way to Donate

Not just with Barbie dolls, there is no wrong way to donate toys and other items to the needy, other than ensuring that what you are donating is in serviceable condition and is not harmful to the recipient. Through the practice of our donating Barbies to others, we received a lot of feedback from people all over the world who wanted to help! They, like us, had amassed tons of dolls too, and were hoping to give them new life in the homes of today's generation of girls. When I first wrote this article, I was solely dependent on collecting Barbies, but it grew over the years to become so much more than that.

New Beginnings

In 2013, we had grown to incorporate a whole group of helpers, and had maxed out the Barbie doll idea. So, we reached out to our local children's hospital, and decided to donate Mattel toys - that way girls could have Barbie products, while boys could have things like cars and action figures made by the same company. As a result, over 20 gifts were presented to children for Christmas.

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In 2015, we took on an even bigger venture! By partnering with Child Advocates Inc. for their annual Christmas toy drive, we collected donations of Mattel toys AND other brands for the foster kids in their system. Between all the groups who volunteered (and there were many more than just The Barbie Girls Project), we raised enough for 3,000 children! While we were able to help a second year and see every single child's needs met, we've since gone back to donating Barbie dolls to girls in our area who are affected by domestic abuse.

The Barbie Girls Project

2020: The Banner Year

Since March of 2020, we have been contacted on a monthly, and sometimes weekly basis on where and how to donate dolls so that despite the pandemic, we have received hundreds of dolls. Then, in late May I landed a new job that allowed me to host our first Barbie Doll Dress Up, an event born out of receiving a plethora of clothing and dolls who needed to be dressed. As a result, 250 dolls were dressed and donated! Because of so many new and exciting partnerships made throughout my time there so far, we've definitely been able to donate to even more girls at a time than ever before. It's great to be such a blessing to others!

Doll runway for girls to shoot pics and videos of the dolls they dressed - Inaugural Barbie Doll Dress Up Event

Doll runway for girls to shoot pics and videos of the dolls they dressed - Inaugural Barbie Doll Dress Up Event

Becoming a Social Enterprise in 2022

With all that we’ve been blessed to receive, the new challenges from our growth stem from not being able to afford to ship dolls out of state or buy ethnic dolls when my supply isn’t diverse, and that we have leftover accessories like shoe odds and clothing in need of repairs. To generate income I can use for buying dolls and other supplies, I’ve been in the process of turning what I do into a family business as a for-profit social enterprise. Our goal is to sell ethnic clothing for dolls made from ethnic fabric remnants as well as thrifted t-shirts, as well as leftovers from donors or things that can’t be gifted but can still be useful to doll lovers.



The Barbie Girls Project has an active social media stream with our Facebook page and IG. Read more about donating Barbies on eHow and feel free to reach out with any questions or if interested in partnering with what we do or wanting to do something similar in your area by visiting our website.

Truly, any item you choose to donate, no matter the toy, product, or service, can easily be turned into your passion or hobby. All it takes is your interest and time!

Toy Nostalgia

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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