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Ella, Friend of Barbie, Becomes More than a Friend to Many Children Battling Illnesses

When Mattel first decided to create Ella, Friend of Barbie™ in 2012, the plan was to make a limited supply of the bald doll and donate, not sell them, to children’s hospitals throughout the United States and in Canada. The purpose of these not-for-profit dolls was to bring hope and comfort to young patients battling illnesses that cause hair loss. However, soon after the dolls were distributed, demand quickly exceeded supply and we received many requests to reach more children.

One mother of a little girl battling a rare form of leukemia petitioned for more of the dolls to be made after witnessing the impact Ella had on her daughter’s recovery. Her daughter carried Ella with her everywhere, positively impacting her treatment and giving her a new hopeful attitude towards her illness and the loss of her long blonde curls.

“When the charge nurse brought us ‘Ella’ I cried, said the mother. “It gave us the chance to say, 'Here’s a beautiful, smiling doll. It doesn’t have hair.’”

Similar responses and feedback encouraged Mattel to produce more Ella dolls to be distributed through the Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, a network of more than 200 hospitals associated with the Children’s Hospital Association, CureSearch for Children’s Cancer and the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

Just like Barbie, Ella dolls come complete with accessories, including two fancy wigs, a headscarf and a head band, but they are not sold in stores, marketed or advertised. They are made for one reason and that is to make a meaningful difference in the lives of children when they need us the most.


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