October 15, 2014 // Franchising.com // Wayne, NJ – To help bring holiday joy to some of the 14.7 million U.S. children living in poverty, Toys"R"Us® today announced the launch of its annual nationwide fundraising campaign to benefit the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. Now through Sunday, December 7, consumers can donate new, unwrapped toys at any Toys"R"Us or Babies"R"Us® store across the country and online at Toysrus.com/ToysforTots. The company will also collect monetary donations in-store and online through Christmas Eve.
Again this year, NBA Legend, philanthropist and entrepreneur Shaquille O'Neal is reporting back to Toys for Tots duty as his alter ego Shaq-A-Claus to encourage customers to donate to the cause, along with a new mission that will help double the giving: the #PlayItForward Challenge. Throughout the campaign, Shaq-A-Claus is asking supporters to take the ultimate "un-selfie" – a photo of themselves donating a toy in any Toys"R"Us store across the country. For every selfie shared using #PlayItForward, Toys"R"Us will donate an additional toy to Toys for Tots, ensuring even more children in need have a toy to open on Christmas morning.
"I personally know that play can positively impact the life of a child. When I was young, it was a basketball I received on Christmas morning that empowered me to dream that I could someday become a basketball star," said Shaquille O'Neal. "Growing up, my parents always impressed upon me the importance of giving back to those in need, and that even the small gift of a toy could make a big difference in someone's life – like it did in mine. My partnership with Toys"R"Us to collect toys and raise funds for Toys for Tots puts a smile on my face and gives me a sense of great pride, and this season, I'm calling on all my little elves to help #PlayItForward to make a Shaq-sized difference in kids' lives!"
With kids and kids-at-heart eager to find ways to give back to those less fortunate, throughout the nine-week campaign Shaq-A-Claus and Toys"R"Us will encourage customers to participate in the #PlayItForward Challenge. Shoppers can help #PlayItForward by taking and sharing a selfie when donating a toy to Toys for Tots at Toys"R"Us stores. Participants are also asked to share their selfies on the Toys"R"Us Facebook page at Facebook.com/Toysrus and to tag @Toysrus when posting on Twitter and Instagram. For every photo shared using the dedicated hashtag, Toys"R"Us will donate an additional toy (or the equivalent cash value) to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, up to $150,000, demonstrating that giving a little has the potential to make a big impact on the lives of others.
And, Toys"R"Us will triple its charitable gifting on Tuesday, December 2, now known as #GivingTuesday, a social media movement designed to kick off the season of giving. On this day, the company will donate two toys to Toys for Tots for every donation selfie posted on social media using #PlayItForward.
Throughout the 2014 campaign, fans of the Toys"R"Us Facebook page, as well as its followers on Twitter and Instagram, will enjoy exclusive content, including special messages from Shaq-A-Claus, fundraising updates and more. To help spread awareness and further engage the online community, the company has created a viral video series in which Shaq-A-Claus demonstrates how to #PlayItForward and encourages others to do the same. To motivate his own followers to #PlayItForward, Shaq-A-Claus will also Tweet and Instagram (@SHAQ), as well as post on Facebook at Facebook.com/ShaqVerified.
"For more than a decade, Toys"R"Us has been instrumental in helping Toys for Tots deliver happiness on Christmas morning to the millions of kids living in poverty throughout the U.S.," said LtGen Pete Osman, USMC (Ret), President and CEO, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. "And this year, Toys"R"Us will do one better and donate even more toys to the Foundation through the #PlayItForward challenge. This is why we urge all Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us customers to donate and participate in the social media initiative, helping ensure this year is a record-breaking success in reaching even more kids in need."
To make it even easier to #PlayItForward while shopping with Toys"R"Us, the company is once again offering customers The Great Big Shaq-A-Claus Wish List, the official Toys for Tots wish list filled with toy suggestions, including crafts, play sets, electronics, plush and more, that are sure to excite and delight children. Parents and gift-givers can view The Great Big Shaq-A-Claus Wish List on the company's dedicated Toys for Tots hub at Toysrus.com/ToysforTots, where visitors can buy toys online and ship them directly to Toys for Tots. Additionally, supporters can view a special message from Shaq-A-Claus, find out more about the organization and make a monetary donation.
The Great Big Shaq-A-Claus Wish List can also be printed in-store at designated Wish List kiosks or at the Customer Service Desk, allowing shoppers to reference the list as they search for a toy to donate. All toys donated in-store are distributed within that particular community, making this a truly local program.
"Play is a powerful tool that inspires young imaginations and creates memories that remain with children forever. That's why, in our 11th year of partnership with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, we are more dedicated than ever to providing toys to those who might go without one on Christmas morning," said Kathleen Waugh, Chairman, Toys"R"Us Children's Fund. "This year, with the help of the biggest and most kind-hearted 'kid' we know, Shaquille O'Neal, it is our mission to #PlayItForward and double the gift of play for kids in need."
As the largest retail partner in the history of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Toys"R"Us has raised over $35.5 million and collected more than 4 million toys since the partnership began in 2004. To kick off this year's campaign, the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund, a public charity affiliated with Toys"R"Us, Inc., provided a $225,000 grant to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. The Shaq-A-Claus #PlayItForward program is also supported by the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund.
To download images and videos of this year's campaign, please click here.
The philanthropic mission of Toys"R"Us, Inc. and the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund is to keep children safe and help them in times of need. The Toys"R"Us Children's Fund contributes millions of dollars annually to various children's organizations, including those providing disaster relief to victims of large-scale crises, as well as those supporting America's military families. The Fund also provides grants to leading special needs organizations, furthering the company's commitment to children of all abilities. In addition to financial and product donations, Toys"R"Us, Inc. hosts in-store and online fundraising campaigns annually that raise millions of dollars for the company's signature philanthropic partners.