University Hospital hosts Ella Barbie doll party for young cancer patients

SAN ANTONIO – Some children battling cancer at University Hospital were treated to a special party on Friday.

Organizers are calling it an "Ella" party.

During the celebration, each child received a free Ella Barbie doll, intended to help them along through the process of chemotherapy.

Audrey Russell, 5, said she was excited about her new Ella doll.

"I like how it comes with a pink wig and a brown wig," said Russell. "I like that and I like this other thing, which is this necklace."

The Ella Barbie doll, which is bald, was created for children with cancer to help them overcome image issues.

"This is something most little girls have, Barbie dolls," said Mallory Zarate with CureSearch. "This kind of helps normalize the experience, making it easier to cope."

"One of the things that most people understand about pediatric cancer or cancer in general is that when you get chemotherapy, your hair falls out," said Dr. Chatchi Assanasen with the University Health System. "And, for our kids, they undergo therapy for years and sometimes they have some body image issues, especially the young ladies."

Damon Billick, 10, who was diagnosed with cancer in February said he attended the party to get his twin sister a doll, but that he ended up enjoying the celebration as well.

"It's pretty cool," said Billick. "I'm glad that they make kids happy when they have cancer so, they don't really think about it. That's what I like about it (the party)"

This is the second year for the Ella Barbie doll to be out, but this is the first year that University Hospital has hosted an Ella party. 

However, Assanasen said they are looking forward to hosting another Ella party next year.

"It looks like it's a very popular event," said Assanasen. "And we look forward to many more to come."

"Ella is not for sale," said Zarate. "Mattel does not want to put a value on her. She's very special. They want to make that she is always accessible to children undergoing treatment and they don't have to pay for her."

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