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“Working with children has always been important to me,” the actress tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Once you’re a parent, you understand in a different way what it must be like to have a sick child. It’s hard enough to get children to go to the doctor to get a shot, but think about what sick children go through day in and day out. What Mattel provides is truly amazing, from the smallest details — like little kids don’t use wheelchairs; they use red wagons; the window washers dress up as superheroes. What they do requires a lot of funding.”
To that end, Gellar is hosting the 15th annual Mattel Party on the Pier on Sunday in Santa Monica to benefit the hospital, part of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, whose mission is to “provide state-of-the-art medical and surgical treatment for children in a compassionate atmosphere and to improve the understanding and treatment of pediatric diseases.”
The family event includes a silent auction, arts and crafts, rides and carnival games plus a VIP sponsor area hosted by the Los Angeles Dodgers featuring breakfast and lunch donated by Wolfgang Puck Catering. Disney stars and other celebrities also will be on hand to sign autographs, take pictures with guests and volunteer in the game booths. All net proceeds benefit Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. (Last year’s event raised more than $800,000.)
Gellar often volunteers at the hospital several times a week or month — as her schedule permits — for hours at a time. On her most recent visit, she played Connect Four with a young girl.
“[The staff told me,] ‘She’s really good. Don’t try to let her win,’ ” Gellar says. “We played almost three hours, and I only won twice. I was so embarrassed, but they told me that combined I won more than anyone in the last few months.”
Gellar says that she’s been impressed with how much the hospital staff does to help the kids.
“Think about how long some of the kids are there, and they can’t do anything [outside the hospital or their room],” she says. “[Many experts] agree that one thing that helps people get through the recovery process is not just having the best medicine in the world but also keeping their spirits up. You can have the best-trained medical team in the world, but if you have no reason to get up in the morning, you’ve lost the battle.”
Gellar says that while her kids (with husband Freddie Prinze Jr.) are still a bit too young to completely understand the concept of charity — daughter Charlotte is 5, while son Rocky is 2 — her daughter has started to catch on to the importance of helping others in need.
“My daughter just turned 5, and she didn’t want presents; we had a diaper drive,” Gellar says. “But then she thought she could hand out diapers [directly] to kids who need them. It was a shock to her,” she remarked with a laugh.
As for Sunday’s event, Gellar encourages people to contribute what they can, however they can.
“I think we have to remember it could happen to anyone, and if we want to keep these facilities running, we have to have contributions,” she says. “It could just as easily be you or me or anyone we know there now.”
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