FAREHAM, United Kingdom — Ruth Handler founded the Mattel toy company in 1945 and later in 1959 she created the popular Barbie doll after Handler saw her daughter, Barbara, playing with paper dolls. Handler wanted to make a three-dimensional doll to inspire girls and show them that they can do anything. The doll became associated with the phrases “you can be anything” and “anything is possible.” As a company with such inspiring beliefs, it is no wonder that it has a history of charity carried out through The Mattel’s Children Foundation.
Create Access to Play
One of the four ways Mattel engages in charity is by creating access to play. It believes in “creating meaningful play experiences for children in need” and its actions confirm this. It donates to those who are ill, recovering from natural disasters or otherwise find themselves in an unfavorable situation. Some of the places it donates include orphanages, schools and children’s hospitals.
Its employee volunteers created and introduced play kits in 2018. The charity gives these kits to its partners that focus on disaster relief to provide toys to shelters that house families affected. Across 2018 and 2019, it created and donated over 6,000 play kits.
Mattel also partners with GoBabyGo! and Good360. It works with the former to give ride-on cars to children with disabilities, so they can move around on their own. At Mattel Headquarters in 2019, employees helped to customize the power wheels on these cars. Good360 helps Mattel distribute its donations effectively and Mattel donated more than $2 million worth of toys through it in 2018. It donated over $7.2 million worth of toys generally that year and 2,500 employees spent thousands of hours volunteering.
Mattel continues to value volunteering, especially on the global level. Not only does it help provide emergency disaster relief through its partners, but it works to help people across the globe through a variety of means. This includes fundraisers, toy donations, beautification projects and more.
Its charitable nature dates back quite a while with one of its most notable donations being in 2011. It pledged $500,000 to Save the Children over the course of five years. This money helped provide emergency relief and work on disaster prevention by training its staff, getting better technology and preparing at-risk communities for potential crises.
Encourage Education and Well-Being
Another one of the ways that Mattel engages in charity is through its dedication to the education and well-being of young children, particularly young girls.
Using its Hot Wheels toy line, it created Hot Wheels Speedometry to get kids interested in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). The program started in 2013 and is free to use for online educators. It uses tracks and toy cars to teach the fundamentals of STEAM to fourth-grade and kindergarten students in an accessible manner.
The company encourages well-being through its Brave Barbie doll. Brave Barbie is a doll made with no hair and is included in the yearly donations that Mattel makes. It donated the doll to over 200 hospitals in association with charities like CureSearch for Children’s Cancer.
Prepare the Next Generation
The Barbie Dream Gap Project began in 2018 as a way to inspire girls and give them resources to do anything, as the Barbie tagline suggests they should be able to. The project honors real-life role models, such as the CEO of YouTube Susan Wojcicki. These role models also often have accompanying dolls; Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a British space scientist, is an example of this.
The project demonstrates more ways that Mattel engages in charity. In 2019, Mattel raised funds with GoFundMe to give girls mentorship opportunities. The GoFundMe page, still open to this day, has raised over $700,000. In 2020, Mattel donated to the NAACP and collaborated with UCLA.
Mattel launched the Ruth Handler Mentorship Program in 2020 as well at the Wonder Woman Awards Ceremony. The program aims to advance career growth via one on one mentorship.
The Effort Continues
To this day, Mattel engages in charity. In 2022, Mattel directly partnered with Save the Children again. The Mattel Children’s Foundation continues to donate to the Barbie Dream Gap Project in 2023. Its partnership with Good360 makes sure that its donations are given to over 230 nonprofits annually and hosts an annual “Play It Forward” Global Volunteer Week.
When Barbie was created, she was made to show girls that they can do anything. Anything is possible. This value continued with the introduction of Monster High in 2010, which has the catchline, “Be yourself, be unique, be a monster.” Outside of the toys they make, Mattel’s charitable efforts demonstrate that these values are core to the company and it shows no signs of stopping when trying to help young children globally reach their potential. It helps regardless of culture, wealth and country.
– Lachlan Griffiths