Barbie's Dream Charity

Mattel — the maker of the petroleum-based, anatomically vague dolls some believe responsible for afflicting masses of American youth with body dysmorphia — gives to early childhood education. They gave $500,000 along with an untold number of their toys to the Save the Children program in early 2011. As the press release explains, the Mattel company "believes that play matters." So does free advertising, right?

Oddly, the Mattel Children's Hospital on the UCLA campus does not offer therapy or counseling. I am editorializing here, but maybe Mattel should subsidize psychotherapy instead of shipping their products into disaster-stricken countries pro bono.

Playworks, a "leading organization leveraging the power of play" and a partner of Mattel, received $1 million dollars from them in November of 2011 to implement their "Junior Coach" program. Junior Coach teaches students about conflict resolution, sportsmanship, social skills, and teamwork. Confidence expert and writer Jess Weiner of Modernmom.com called play a "key ingredient for raising a healthy, confident child" in a live chat to promote the partnership.

Then again, who cares about the ingredients if the toy themselves makes kids want to stop eating? A research paper called "The Effects of Playing with Thin Dolls on Body Image and Food Intake in Young Girls" found that playing with rail-thin Barbie (Mattel®) dolls made the majority of 117 Dutch girls between the first and fourth grades noticeably less hungry.

Aside from money to their hospital at UCLA, Playworks and Save the Children, Mattel generally gives in the ballpark of $20,000 to $50,000. Most recently, they came up with $25,000 for an architectural design firm in Oakland, CA, called Gyroscope, Inc. Responsible for childrens' museum projects in Austin, Chicago and the Bay Area, Gyroscope now wants to build another facility in Buffalo, NY, in place of the city's now defunct Memorial Auditorium. Barbera Park Legget, executive director of Explore & More, the company slated to run the new museum, called it "what Western New York's been looking for."

Looking forward, the Playworks press release said they intend to take their program national. Should they go through with the plan, untold millions from Mattel may follow.