Mattel donated 2000 Barbies and other toys to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth on Jan. 19 in honor of 7-year-old Athena Strand.
Athena was kidnapped and killed by a FedEx driver delivering a package of
“You Can Be Anything Barbies” to her father’s home in Wise County. After
hearing about the tragedy, Mattel contacted Varghese Summersett Injury Law
Group, which is representing Athena’s mother, Maitlyn Gandy.
“Mattel wanted to make a Barbie donation in honor of Athena,” said Benson
Varghese, Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group. “We
asked Maitlyn if she had someplace in mind, and she immediately said ‘Cook
Children’s Medical Center.’ Of course, it made perfect sense when she told us
In September, Athena became ill and was hospitalized for three days at Cook
Children’s Medical Center. During her time there, she was given a pink “Prayer
Bear.” The Prayer Bear brought her joy and quickly became her favorite stuffed
animal. The Prayer Bear was in Athena’s pink coffin during her funeral service
By selecting Cook Children’s as the recipient of Mattel’s Barbie and toy
donation, Maitlyn hopes thousands of children will feel the same joy the
Prayer Bear gave her daughter.
On Thursday, Maitlyn and her legal
team helped a six-person group from
Mattel set up barbies and toys for a
“You Can Be Anything” event
organized by Cook Children’s Medical
Center. Afterward, Maitlyn interacted
with the patients as they came down
to select a toy, have a snack, and
complete crafts that focused on the
children’s future and goals.
“This was a special event in memory of my daughter,” Maitlyn said. “I’m
grateful for everyone who helped make it happen.”
Megan Hodges Cook, Community Program Coordinator at Cook Children’s, said
Thursday’s event was incredibly important to the emotional well-being of the
patients and families they serve.
“The generosity of Maitlyn and Mattel is overwhelming,” said Hodges Cook.
“Mattel provided all of our patient’s favorite toys, including Barbies that
represent all of the different patients we serve, Little People, Imaginext
dinosaurs, Hot Wheels and even a Fisher Price cell phone toy for infants and
“They did not leave a single child’s age or interests unaccounted for, and they
brought our most needed toys. In serving our patients, it is not unusual for us
to distribute 50-100 Barbies every month, hundreds of Hot Wheels cars, and
40 or more hand-held infant toys every month. I can’t even imagine the number of patients that will be touched by the donation Mattel made in honor of Athena. It is truly amazing.”
Nancy Molenda, Executive Director of the Mattel Children’s Foundation, said
their purpose is to empower the next generation to explore the wonder of
childhood and “reach their full potential.”
“We are honored to be part of this event and to help bring the power of play to
the patients of Cook Children’s,” she said.