Like millions of females around the world, Kelsey Cook of Bettendorf is a big fan of Barbie and the blockbuster film this year based on the iconic doll.

In part to ride the pink wave of Barbie fever, she and her sister Carly Grannen and friend Jerramie Dodd have organized a Barbie toy drive (through Nov. 19, 2023) and will have a pink Barbie Christmas tree at this year’s Festival of Trees at Davenport’s RiverCenter (which will run Nov. 18-26, 2023).

Barbie toy drive organizers Jerramie Dodd, left, Carly Grannen and Kelsey Cook with their Barbie tree at Rock Island’s Brick & Motor Boutique (photo by Jeff Cook).

Cook – who’s working toward her master’s in public health at Western Illinois University and is a new board member for the downtown Davenport YMCA — is a big fan of both Barbie and Festival of Trees.

“Since when we were kids, our parents took us to Festival of Trees every year,” the 34-year-old said recently. “We just loved it. As an adult, we’d go and I’d think, it’d be really fun to do a tree.”

This year, she saw something online about designing a tree and decided to really do it and she wanted to do something fun. Cook asked family friend Marie Ziegler to help them sponsor their tree at Festival of Trees (the biggest fundraiser of the year for Quad City Arts).

Carly Grannen holding her nine-month-old daughter with the Barbie tree (photo by Jeff Cook).

“I thought a Barbie tree would be really fun, with the movie and everything Barbie happening now,” Cook said, noting it made sense to pair it with a toy drive, which will donate all Barbie-themed merchandise to Friendly House in Davenport.

Some private donors and local businesses Milltown Coffee in Moline & Bettendorf, Brick & Motor Boutique in Rock Island and Edison’s (a new modern speakeasy in Bettendorf that specializes in oysters and seafood) are helping sponsor the tree. They each are collecting Barbie toys at their locations.

Cook loves Brick & Motor’s connection to the QC community and shared love of Barbie – they hosted a Barbie-themed 5th-anniversary party this past July. And the boutique is donating their big Barbie box where people can take selfies at Festival of Trees with the pink tree.

Brick & Motor owners Lauren Corwin, left, and Haley Walker this past July with their Barbie selfie box (photo by Jonathan Turner).

There will be a FOT premiere party on Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m., with the designers. The Festival opening day is Saturday, Nov. 18, and the toy drive ends on Nov. 19.

Cook is ending the drive then so as to not compete with the FOT Toys for Tots drive, she said. The Barbie drive is not part of Toys for Tots, but will benefit Friendly House in Davenport.

“They should stay local for kids in our community,” Cook said. “We’ve got local businesses helping us, and local kids are gonna get the toys.”

The Barbie toy drive will run through Nov. 19 at Milltown in Moline and Bettendorf, Brick & Motor in Rock Island, and the new Edison’s bar in Bettendorf (photo by Jeff Cook).

Her sister Carly has worked for Bettendorf Park Board and has experience running children’s programs. Carly is now director of KinderCare in Bettendorf. “She brought Friendly House to my attention,” Kelsey said. “We’re really excited about it.”

Barbie of many colors, sizes

Regarding the evolution of Barbie and the summer movie blockbuster (directed by Greta Gerwig, which earned $1.44 billion at the box office), Cook is impressed by how diverse and progressive the franchise has become.

“There’s always things with women’s bodies being objectified and that’s been a big criticism of Barbie,” she said. “It had waned in popularity and women became concerned with Barbie holding unrealistic beauty standards. I think Mattel has recognized that and really done a lot to change that in recent years, to be more representative.”

The trio of Barbie fangirls at Brick & Motor, 1629 2nd Ave., Rock Island (photo by Jeff Cook).

That manifests itself in Barbies of many colors, backgrounds, body shapes and occupations, Cook said.

“The director really does a good job bringing all of these issues to light,” she said of Gerwig. “If you are a woman and grew up in the United States, you were impacted by Barbie at one point in your life. I saw people across the generations share pictures of them with their Barbies.”

“I thought what better way to be a beacon of hope for kids this Christmas than with the Barbie tree?” Cook said. “This is really my first fundraising thing.”

She’s also grateful for the help of Pat Wolhford, the Festival of Trees designer recruitment manager.

Kelsey Cook has fun at their first home for the Barbie holiday tree (photo by Jeff Cook).

Their pink tree will be raffled off as part of FOT, to benefit Quad City Arts.

The locations of the toy drive boxes are:

  • Brick & Motor Boutique, 1629 2nd Ave., Rock Island.
  • Milltown Coffee at 3800 River Drive, Moline, and 1025 Utica Ridge Place, Bettendorf.
  • Edison’s Raw & Bar, 3579 Tanglefoot Lane, Bettendorf.

“Through Kelsey’s generosity, we will be able to match Barbies with the children that have asked for a Barbie on their wish list during Holiday Basket sign-up. This will be amazing for getting kids a popular and much requested gift, for this holiday season,” Emilie Dibbern, family and senior services supervisor for Friendly House, said Monday. “We are so happy and grateful to be the site chosen for Kelsey’s donation.”

Holiday baskets

Holiday Basket Sign-Up is this week — through Friday the 10th from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Friendly House, 1221 Myrtle St., Davenport. Their boundaries for this sign-up are those individuals/families living north of River Drive, south of Kimberly Rd., west of Brady St. and east of Lincoln Ave.

They ask that parents/guardians signing up for gifts through the program have photo ID for adults and Social Security card for the children being signed up, Dibbern said.

Those children’s wish lists are then shared with local agencies, businesses, and individuals in the community that would like to shop for the children of a family or “adopt” a family for the food and/or gift basket. Each child (up to 16 years old) will receive gifts from their list (for parents/guardians to wrap and play Santa).

In addition to this, people will receive a holiday food basket. This includes a ham, applesauce, green beans, corn, cranberry sauce, mac & cheese, rolls, butter, and paper towels. These baskets will be distributed to those that have signed up on Dec. 20.

“We are hoping to help as many children as possible have a happy Christmas this year,” Dibbern said. To learn more about Friendly House, visit its website HERE.