WAYNE, NJ – To help bring toys – and smiles – to America's neediest children, today Toys"R"Us, Inc. announced it has teamed up with four-time NBA Champion Shaquille O'Neal to encourage consumers to donate toys and cash to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation this holiday season. The fundraising campaign officially begins October 22 in Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores nationwide and online at Toysrus.com/ToysforTots.
The partnership with O'Neal was inspired by his annual visits to Toys"R"Us stores on Christmas Eve to purchase toys for children in need. His 15-year history of buying and distributing these toys to underprivileged children in cities across the country earned him the name, "Shaq-A-Claus." This holiday season, the legend of Shaq-A-Claus will continue when O'Neal makes surprise visits to Toys"R"Us stores in the coming months to shop for needy children and encourage customers to give back.
"I'm really just a big kid myself, and I can't imagine a child going without a toy to unwrap during the holidays," said Shaquille O'Neal. "Toys are magical for kids! My life was transformed one Christmas morning when, as a boy, I received an autographed Dr. J basketball from Toys"R"Us. With millions children living in poverty in this country, I urge everyone to 'Join Shaq Give Back' this holiday season."
"Toys"R"Us and Shaquille O'Neal have a shared love of all kids, and we are delighted that he has joined us to help children in need this holiday season," said Jerry Storch, Chairman and CEO, Toys"R"Us, Inc. "The "R"Us family is proud of its longstanding history of giving back to the communities we serve through the Toys for Tots program. We have no doubt that our customers and employees will enthusiastically support this program once again."
During the nine-week campaign beginning today, new, unwrapped toys will be collected through December 6 at Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores across the country. Collected toys will be distributed to children in the communities where they are donated, making this a truly local program. Monetary donations will be accepted at all Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us locations and online at Toysrus.com/ToysforTots through Christmas Eve.
On Thursday, November 5 and Friday, November 6, Marines and other Toys for Tots representatives will be stationed at Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores nationwide to bring added attention to the "Join Shaq Give Back" campaign in local markets.
Customers can also "Join Shaq" online at Toysrus.com/ToysforTots. This dedicated website features a video greeting from the four-time NBA Champion, along with "The Legend of Shaq-A-Claus," which explains O'Neal's history of giving back to children in need.
In the virtual space, Facebook members can also "Join Shaq" now through Christmas Eve, when they become fans of Toys"R"Us or Babies"R"Us at either Facebook.com/Toysrus or Facebook.com/Babiesrus. For every new fan who joins now through Thursday December 24, Toys"R"Us will donate $1 worth of toys to Toys for Tots.
The official Toys"R"Us Facebook fan page will receive a Shaq-A-Claus-themed redesign for the holiday season. Beyond showcasing images of Shaq-A-Claus, the page will feature special videos of O'Neal discussing why he gives back to children in need, how a special Christmas present influenced his life and more. The site will also feature messages from O'Neal's official Twitter feed, @THE_REAL_SHAQ, along with the "Legend of Shaq-A-Claus."
In addition to the online Shaq-A-Claus presence, Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores across the country will feature a life-sized standee of O'Neal, in his Shaq-A-Claus attire. Towering over most shoppers at nearly 7-feet, 5-inches, the cutouts will serve to bring attention to the "Join Shaq Give Back" campaign, while encouraging customers to donate. O'Neal will also appear as Shaq-A-Claus on other in-store signage and marketing materials throughout the campaign, including advertising circulars.
"With even more children living in poverty today, we are truly grateful that Toys"R"Us is joining with us for the sixth year to help children across the country receive a gift to unwrap on Christmas morning," said Lt. General Pete Osman, USMC (Ret), President and CEO, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. "We encourage Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us customers to 'Join Shaq' and help Toys for Tots deliver more toys than ever before to those children who need it most."
As the largest retail partner in the history of Toys for Tots, Toys"R"Us, Inc. has raised more than $16.2 million and collected more than 1.4 million toys since the partnership began in 2004. To jumpstart the 2009 campaign, the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund made a $250,000 grant to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. This program is also supported by the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund.
Toys"R"Us, Inc. is the world's leading dedicated toy and baby products retailer, offering a differentiated shopping experience through its family of brands. It currently sells merchandise in more than 1,550 stores, including 848 Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores in the United States, and more than 700 international stores in 33 countries, consisting of both licensed and franchised stores. In addition, it sells extraordinary toys in two FAO Schwarz stores in the United States. With its strong portfolio of e-commerce sites including Toysrus.com, Babiesrus.com, eToys.com, FAO.com and babyuniverse.com, it provides shoppers with an unparalleled online selection of distinctive toy and baby products. In addition, the company operates ePregnancy.com, an online resource for parents. Headquartered in Wayne, NJ, Toys"R"Us, Inc. employs nearly 70,000 associates worldwide. The company is committed to serving its communities as a caring and reputable neighbor through programs dedicated to keeping kids safe and helping them in times of need.
The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is a not for profit organization authorized by the U.S. Marine Corps and the Department of Defense to provide fundraising and other necessary support for the annual Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. Now in its 62nd year, Toys for Tots provides joy and a message of hope to economically disadvantaged children through the gift of a new toy during the Christmas holiday season. Our gifts offer these children hope, recognition and a positive memory they will cherish for a lifetime. Many of the gifts we provide, such as books, games and sports equipment, make a significant contribution to the educational, social and recreational development of these children. In 2008, Marines distributed gifts to 7.6 million children in over 620 communities nationwide. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation relies on individual donations from the American public as well as support from corporate sponsors, to include its Four Star Partners Hasbro, Inc; JAKKS Pacific, Inc; Scholastic and Toys "R" Us, Inc.