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Barbie Would Not Be Pleased

By T.J. Simers

I loved Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA.

Dr. Kathleen Sakamoto guided me around the hospital and she inspired so many to donate to the kids’ cancer ward. We never kept track of how much, but it was close to $2 million with Scully & Wooden also raising donations for City of Hope and Children’s Hospital L.A.

I witnessed miracles, a youngster coming to the hospital, losing part of his leg to bone cancer, and embracing the prosthesis that allowed him a fresh start to life.

Dr. Sakamoto introduced me to Dr. Noah Federman, the first hero I had ever met and I had spent a lifetime covering sports stars. He’s the annoying guy who was singing in the next hospital room while almost drowning out the sounds of a crying child.

It wasn’t so much that he had a bad singing voice, and wow he did, but chirping as he was in such a sad place seemed so out of place. That is until he told me, I know most of these children are going to go home happy after they get the care needed.

Tell me anything you did as noteworthy recently—never mind.

I loved what Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA did for so many kids, and I can hear Coach Wooden in my ear—“kids are baby goats, call them what they are—children.”

The LA Times, however, wasn’t so high on Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. Before he was fired, Editor Davan Maharaj told me, “It’s not your job to help the misfortunate.” I thought that would be a great motto for a wannabe community newspaper.

He forbid me to mention the hospital in my column, so when I wrote a story about a youngster being honored at a UCLA basketball game and meeting his mother who slept at the hospital every night to be close to her child, I couldn’t be specific.

I still wrote the story, the who and the what but not the where.

When Maharaj took away my column, he said he saw a video of me wearing a Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA baseball cap and suggested that was my way of giving him the finger. I had never thought of that, but it works for me now.

So, I have some history with Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA, which drew me to a Times’ headline this week: “Mattel stiffed UCLA on $49-million children’s hospital donation, lawsuit claims.”

The guy who said it wasn’t my job to help the misfortunate had asked me earlier what was I going to do if Mattel or the hospital were ever involved in a scandal?

I’d like to think the newspaper would treat Mattel’s just like it did the editor when he took $2.5 million to remain silent after recording anti-Semitic comments allegedly made by the company’s largest shareholder. Publicize it.

How would you like to sit on that jury for Mattel vs children’s hospital?

Instead of Mattel, maybe the place should be named Federman Children’s Hospital at UCLA to make good on any promises not kept. He’s worth more than $49 million, but I’d still hold out for the dough.

I know this, when I see the name Mattel from now on, I will only think of a “reneged donation.” A win in court isn’t going to change that. Better that they honor their commitment, regain respectability and give the doctors the publicity.

As it is, I’m doing everything I can not to go see Barbie.

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