Now it’s Barbie’s turn to step up. The forever-young grande dame of glamour dolls is doing her part for the families of essential workers in the fight against the coronavirus. Two weeks after Mattel stablemate Fisher-Price inaugurated the company’s philanthropic cross-brand Play It Forward platform with essential-worker action figures and Little People Community Champions, Barbie is instituting its own initiative, also under the #ThankYouHeroes handle. From May 14 through May 17, for every Career Barbie sold at participating retailers, the brand will donate a Barbie to the First Responders Children’s Foundation. Founded in the wake of 9/11, the organization initially set out to award scholarships to the children of first responders killed in the line of duty. It has expanded to provide other forms of support, including financial assistance to families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
All Career Barbie dolls and play set purchases qualify for the donation match up to a total of 30,000 items and a dollar value that will fall between $300,000 and $600,000. Products in Barbie’s career range are priced from $9.99 to $19.99. In addition to Barbie.com, participating retailers include Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and Amazon Inc.
“We are proud to launch a program celebrating the real-life heroes working on the front lines and supporting their families through the First Responders Children’s Foundation,” said Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and global head of Barbie and Dolls at Mattel.
In a statement, she noted that kids are “hyper-aware” of COVID-19’s dramatic impact on everyday life and address it “as they chalk sidewalks, make signs and lean out windows to cheer each night to thank our front-line workers.” This Barbie program, she said, is intended “to inspire today’s kids to take after these heroes one day.”
To that end, as toys go, Barbie leads by example. Though criticized at times for her un-human, iconic proportions, Barbie has long been more than a pretty face and great body (alternatives to the original leggy wonder were introduced in 2016 — petite, tall and curvy). Launched as a teenaged fashion model in 1959, Barbie branched out into different careers almost immediately, and across the decades has tried her hand at (and the outfits of) more than 200 jobs. She became an astronaut in 1965, President of the United States in 1992, and in 2019, a judge, the white collar of her black robe rendered in lace, à la RBG.
Jillian Crane, president of the First Responders Children’s Foundation, noted the sacrifices made not only by those essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic, but their families. The organization, she said, “is excited to deploy Barbie to first-responder families across the country during a time when their children are in need of a little joy in their lives.”
On the Barbie web site, first-responder/essential worker categories are represented by a nurse, doctor, firefighter and scientist. While there’s no grocery worker, a chef represents the food-service community. The dolls for donation will be chosen from this range. All were previously existing, part of a remarkably diverse career sphere that includes other far-flung working-woman personas such as vet, ballerina, astrophysicist, art teacher, pop star, polar marine biologist and chicken farmer.
“Barbie has always highlighted role models to inspire the limitless potential in the next generation,” said McKnight.