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Barbie going bald for charity

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Ever since Barbie made her debut in 1959, we've come to expect a particular style of hairdo from the iconic doll: unfeasibly long, flowing, usually golden locks.

But an upcoming addition to the famous toy line is set to change all that. A new doll, which maker Mattel says will be introduced as a friend of Barbie's, is completely bald -- and intended to help children coping with hair loss from medical treatments like chemotherapy.

The idea originated when friends Beckie Spyin and Jane Bingham, both of whom had been affected by cancer treatment-related hair loss, realized that a bald Barbie might help children deal with the difficulty of seeing a family member lose their hair.

Bingham and Spyin approached Mattel with their idea, but were rebuffed.  The pair then opted for a viral-marketing approach, setting up a Facebook page called "Beautiful and Bald Barbie! Let's see if we can get it made" in an attempt to encourage the company to look at their plans again.

The campaign was a resounding success, and after seeing Bingham and Spyin recruit over 150,000 supporters in less than four months, Mattel agreed to produce the doll.

But like most things Barbie, it's not without a hint of controversy. In January a media relations director for the American Cancer Society, of all places, came under fire after voicing concerns that the doll could incite fear in cancer-free kids and parents and "do more harm than good." Parents were outraged, prompting a swift apology.

Still, Mattel won't be selling the bald doll in stores. Instead, the company will be donating them to hospitals around North America involved in treating cancer-afflicted children and to a number of associated charities.

Bad news for collectors? Perhaps. Good news for all those sick kids? You bet. Mattel's history of producing socially-inclusive Barbie dolls is mixed at best, but this time it's hard to see their latest move doing anything other than putting much-needed smiles on young faces.

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