American Girl Announces Winners of Real Girl of the Year Award

Three Grand Prize Winners Selected from 8,000 Inspiring Entries

Middleton, WI–April 1, 2008–American Girl is proud to announce the winners of its 2008 Real Girl of the Year Award. Three grand prize winners were selected from 8,000 entries—9-year-old Madison Bella King from Indiana; 10-year-old Aisling Shepherd from Maine; and 13-year-old Kelsie Kellen from Missouri. The Award was inspired by American Girl’s 2008 Girl of the Year character, Mia, a talented and hardworking girl who follows her dream to figure skate and discovers that having an award-winning attitude is what really matters. As grand prize winners, all three girls will receive a $5,000 donation to the organization in which they are involved, a special appearance in the American Girl catalogue and on the Web site, a complete Mia product collection, and recognition at a special celebratory event on April 26, 2008, at American Girl Place Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles.

Each celebration event, inspired by American Girl’s new Go For It! book, will honor one of the grand prize winners and feature activities and lessons to help girls gain confidence, have fun, and stay inspired in their activities. As an added bonus, champion figure skaters will attend the recognition events to share their own inspiring stories with the girls: Emily Hughes (New York), Kimmie Meissner (Chicago), and Kristi Yamaguchi and Mirai Nagasu (Los Angeles).

“The Real Girl of the Year Award is our way of celebrating the enormous achievements of girls everywhere,” said Ellen L. Brothers, president of American Girl. “In reviewing the thousands of entries, we were continually amazed at the passion and dedication these young girls—like our winners Madison, Aisling, and Kelsie— exemplify in order to reach their goals on the field, on stage, and in everyday life. Each inspiring story demonstrates what it means to be a Real Girl of the Year.”

The 2008 Real Girl of the Year Award Winners:

  • To ease the change of moving from a reservation to the Midwest, Madison Bella, age 9, began competing in powwow dance contests. Wanting to do more, she started the Soaring Eagles youth group to help native children learn about their cultures, as well as teach the non-native community about native traditions and customs. Today, Madison is an accomplished dancer and role model for her native community.
  • Ten-year-old Aisling runs a dogsled team in junior competition races. She runs her team—made up of dogs she’s adopted or rescued and trained from scratch—daily, before and after school. Aisling’s love is for her dogs, not victory. They are not just racing dogs to her—they are her family, her love, her passion. In her eyes it’s not about points, medals, or winning, it’s about having fun with her dogs.
  • Passionate about wheel-chair racing, 13-year-old Kelsie’s dream is to join the Paralympic track team for the 2012 games in London. She keeps fliers about sports for the physically challenged with her at all times and approaches children in wheelchairs to tell them how racing has affected her life. Kelsie practices up to six times a week, yet she still finds time to encourage others to participate, leading to her selection for the Paralympic Leadership Academy.

To read more about the grand prize winners and to meet the other finalists and honorable mentions, visit


American Girl Brands, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. (NYSE: MAT,, the world’s leading toy company. Since American Girl’s inception in 1986, the company has devoted its entire business to celebrating the potential of girls ages 3 to 12. American Girl encourages girls to dream, to grow, to aspire, to create, and to imagine through a wide range of engaging and insightful books, age-appropriate and educational products, and unforgettable experiences. In meeting its mission with a vigilant eye toward quality and service, American Girl has earned the loyal following of millions of girls and the praise and trust of parents and educators. To learn more about American Girl or to request a free catalogue, call 1-800-845-0005 or visit