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Mattel to Make ‘Bald Friend of Barbie’

Facebook(EL SEGUNDO, Calif.) -- Mattel, the maker of Barbie, will produce a bald fashion doll for children who have lost their hair because of illness or cancer, the company announced Thursday.

“These dolls, which will be a friend of Barbie, will be distributed exclusively to children’s hospitals and other hospitals treating children with cancer throughout the U.S. and Canada, directly reaching girls who are most affected by hair loss,” said Mattel Company spokesman Alan Hilowitz in a statement.

The announcement comes after a Facebook movement urging Mattel to produce a bald version of its famously blonde Barbie doll earlier this year. To date, the page has had more than 150,000 “likes.”

The bald doll would include “hats, scarves and other fashion accessories to provide girls with a traditional fashion play experience. For those girls who choose, the wigs and head coverings can be interchanged or completely removed.”

The doll “would be distributed exclusively to children’s hospitals and other hospitals treating children with cancer throughout the U.S. and Canada,” according to Mattel.

Beckie Sypin, a co-founder of the bald doll cause, told ABC News in January that the hope is that a bald Barbie will help children with cancer and others who have lost their hair due to illness -- such as alopecia and trichotillomania -- cope with their conditions.

“We hope it gets the message out that being bald is beautiful and is no big deal.  There’s no need to cover up,” she said at the time.

Sypin’s own daughter lost her hair after chemotherapy.

Jane Bingham, Sypin’s friend and co-founder of the Facebook page, lost her hair while undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“My daughter had some difficulty accepting me going from a long-haired blonde to a bald woman,” she wrote in a blog.  A bald Barbie, she added, could be a great way for young girls to cope with hair loss that happens to them or to a loved one.

Initially, in an email to ABC News in January, Mattel didn’t say whether it would produce the bald Barbie or not, but expressed appreciation that Sypin wanted Barbie to be the face of their campaign.

Sypin said the response she got from Mattel earlier this year was a letter informing her the company does not accept ideas from outside sources. The company also said earlier it receives hundreds of requests for different Barbies and is always exploring new options.

Interestingly, when Bratz dolls creators MGA Entertainment realized the Facebook movement for the Bald Barbie was receiving little response from Mattel, the Bratz makers quickly stepped up production of the bald Bratz, announcing their launch a month before Mattel. The fashionable dolls with their large facial features and bold make-up looks are a popular competitor to Mattel's Barbie.

ABC News' Cecelia Vega got an exclusive look into the development of the "Tru Hope" Bratz dolls, when covering an earlier story about the dolls wars between Bratz and Barbie.  MGA's True Hope Bratz come complete with wigs, hats and scarves similar to the Bald Barbie.  But those who wish to purchase the True Hope Bratz may have an easier time finding them in stores.  MGA plans to sell the dolls commercially, with an expected release date set in June 2012.  MGA will donate a portion of the proceeds from the True Hope Bratz to cancer research organization City of Hope.

Mattel, however, says that it made the “decision not to sell these dolls at retail stores and profit from them, but rather more directly and immediately get these into the hands of children who can most benefit from a play experience with these dolls.”

The company also plans to donate some of the dolls to National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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