Giving Wisely: Helping the Underprivileged, One Child at a Time
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 ones of her own, but also my old dolls that I had had from the time I was her age. We had talked about retiring 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.
What I quickly discovered was 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. Therefore, 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 store Barbie in for play on-the-go. 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.
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.
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 live at and/or receive assistance from a local shelter for families of domestic abuse.
The Barbie Girls Project
As a Child, What Was Your Favorite Toy?
Currently, I have a Twitter profile @Barbie_charity and a Facebook page "The Barbie Girls Project" and a website home of The Barbie Girls Project. I am happy to share instructions with anyone interested in helping out.
I also recommend reading about these other groups and ideas I was able to find while doing an Internet search:
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!