Katelyn Lunt, 6, helped her brother wash windows and organize the kitchen with an eye on a reward her mother had promised for the extra chores: a purple Barbie Dreamtopia Rainbow Cove Fairy Doll that she’d been coveting for months.
She watched her mother, Catherine, order the doll on the family computer in their home in Pleasant View, Utah. The next day, Katelyn asked if she could check the Amazon shipping status, so her mom called up the page, then walked out of the room.
Katelyn saw that her Barbie would be arriving the next afternoon, and then she noticed something else: suggestions about other Barbies and loads of swanky Barbie accessories for sale: the Barbie Dolphin Magic Transforming Mermaid Doll with a squirting dolphin, Barbie Dreamtopia elephant, Barbie Fashionistas wardrobe closet, plus plenty of add-ons.
Fifteen minutes and a few clicks later, with more than $350 worth of Barbie merchandise in her cart, Katelyn selected free two-day shipping, placed the order, then ran off to play.
The next day, while checking on another online order, Catherine Lunt noticed the monumental list of Barbies on the way. “There were three pages of orders!” Lunt said.
She was able to cancel two of them, but it was too late to cancel the rest. She told her daughter that as soon as the other Barbies arrived, they were going to be returned.
“She gave me a look that she always gives when she knows she’s in trouble,” Lunt said. “She knew what she was doing when she ordered those Barbies. And she knew that it was wrong.”
On Aug. 11, a Saturday, Katelyn returned home from a walk with her parents, two siblings, Sarah, 15, and Ryan, 9, and several relatives who were visiting from Arizona. They arrived just in time to see a deliveryman unloading a large stack of brown boxes at the curb.
“What’s all this?” asked Katelyn’s father, Mike, 48, a building contractor and home remodeler.
His wife filled in the family, and they had a big laugh at Katelyn’s mischief. Katelyn’s uncle, John Diyalou, snapped several pics of her posing with the boxes and the delivery guy.
Unbeknown to everyone, Katelyn’s cousin, Ria Diyalou, 23, then posted one of the photos on Twitter with the comment: “My … little cousin ordered $300 worth of toys w/out my aunt & uncle knowing. This is a picture of how everyone found out.”
The picture quickly went viral, with nearly 80,000 likes.
“We started hearing from complete strangers who asked, ‘Aren’t you mad? I’d be livid,’ ” Catherine said. “Although Katelyn knew what she was doing, she had no comprehension about what she’d spent. I mean, come on. She just started the first grade. I’d have to say this is really my fault, for not paying close attention.”
Katelyn wanted to open all of the packages she’d ordered, but her parents said no. Instead of sending back the dolls, her father said, what if they give them to Primary Children’s Hospital so other kids could enjoy them?
The Lunts had good reason for wanting to donate to the hospital in Salt Lake City, 45 miles away. A few days after Katelyn was born in August 2012, she suffered a stroke and a seizure. For one week, her parents worried and waited in the newborn intensive-care unit while Katelyn underwent dozens of tests.
“It was scary – she’d lost 5 percent of her brain mass,” Catherine said. “But doctors told us that it would eventually be regenerated. They put her on medication for a while and decided that she would be fine. And she was.”
Mike said he is profoundly grateful to the hospital and has been thinking for several years about how the Lunts could give back in some way.
“Having Katelyn take the Barbies to the hospital seemed like the perfect way to do that,” he said.
So on Aug. 15, the Lunts loaded up the car (Katelyn was allowed to keep the Rainbow Barbie that she’d been promised for doing extra chores) and hauled the toys from their daughter’s spending spree to a playroom at Primary Children’s.
“Katelyn was a little depressed at first that we were giving them all away,” Mike said. “But then she sat with a bunch of little girls who are patients, and they opened all of the boxes together and laughed and played. She had a lot of fun but also learned a really good lesson.”
Hospital employees chuckled with the Lunts about Katelyn’s unauthorized spending spree and were grateful for the donations.
“We were tickled that Katelyn and her family came with so many boxes of toys for our patients,” said hospital chief executive Katy Welkie. “We depend on gifts from the community – be they Barbie dolls, Play-Doh or financial assistance – to help our patients find joy and hope in their journey.”
Katelyn said she hopes to return to the hospital now and then, with some of the favorite Barbies from her 20-doll collection, for more playtime.
“I’m glad that we took them up there,” Katelyn said. “I’ll bet that everyone likes the one that lights up the best. She’s my favorite.”
So, would she be tempted again to fill up an online shopping cart on her own?
“No,” she said firmly. “My mom said there will be a big consequence if it happens again.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.