Supporting the Special Needs Community
At Toys“R”Us, Inc., we love all kids. One of our philanthropic areas of focus includes supporting children with special needs and the broader community of their family and caregivers. Of key importance is helping to foster inclusion. Toys“R”Us, Inc. strives to feature children with differing abilities in all of the company’s marketing materials.
The Toys“R”Us Children’s Fund has pledged $1 million to become the first Founding Partner of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games. Toys“R”Us will be the Presenting Sponsor of the first Young Athletes™ Festival, a unique event that will debut at the Games in June 2014. The Festival will provide opportunities for children ages 2-7 and their families to take part in the Special Olympics Young Athletes program, Healthy Athletes® activities and family seminars geared toward the future stars of Special Olympics. More than 3,500 Special Olympics athletes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia will compete in 17 sports. An estimated 10,000 volunteers, as well as 50,000 additional spectators will be in attendance.
The Toys“R”Us Children’s Fund has for several years directed grants to Special Olympics to support the national expansion of the Young Athletes program, an inclusive, innovative play program for children that develops critical early cognitive, social and motor skills and introduces kids to the world of sports. In addition to the Young Athletes Festival, youth-centered and educational events will be held in conjunction with the Games, rallying young leaders from across the country to raise awareness and call for action amongst their peers in support of the Special Olympics movement by promoting acceptance and respect for people with intellectual disabilities.
Toys“R”Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids
One of our most important initiatives is publishing the annual Toys“R”Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids®, a resource featuring specially selected toys that aid in the development of children with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities.
Since 1994, Toys“R”Us, Inc. has partnered with the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making the world accessible to children of all abilities, to assess the play value of hundreds of toys for children with special needs. Through therapeutic play sessions with some of the toughest toy critics – kids! – the National Lekotek Center investigates skill-building traits inherent in each toy that appears in the Guide.
Toys“R”Us has worked with some of the most recognizable personalities in the country who have volunteered to serve as the “face” of the Guide. Among these many celebrities are Nancy O’Dell, Eva Longoria, Holly Robinson Peete, Meredith Vieira, Maria Shriver, John Ritter, Whoopi Goldberg and Marlee Matlin. And because safety is also a cornerstone of our business, the Guide features a section on “Safe Play Tips for Children with Special Needs,” created with guidance from leading safety and special needs organizations to help avoid playtime injuries.
This Guide continues to touch families of special needs children nationwide:
- One parent told us that her child would sleep with the Guide under her pillow at night. The cover featured a child with Down syndrome, and it was the first time her daughter ever saw “someone like her” on the cover of a publication.
- As a child, Megan graced the back cover of the first Guide in 1994 and shared these words: “Thanks to … companies like Toys“R”Us, people like me are valued and we are given lots of opportunities to realize our life’s dreams. My motto in life is ‘Just Try – Just Try.’ I have always felt that if opportunities are being made available to me, it is up to me to try them. Why not try something new? I might be really good at it or I may not. No matter what, I tried and that is what is most important. Thanks to … Toys“R”Us for letting me try.”
In part because of our steadfast support of the Guide and the special needs communities it serves, the company was honored by the National Down Syndrome Society. The Guide has also been acknowledged with a Silver HALO award from the Cause Marketing Forum, and the company was a Disability Matters honoree for “substantial efforts and success in marketing” to the special needs community.
The Guide is woven into our company’s fabric and is a labor of love for those who work together throughout the year on this initiative.
Since the partnership began in 2007, Toys“R”Us has helped Autism Speaks receive $18 million through in-store and online fundraising campaigns, donations from both the Toys“R”Us Children’s Fund and Toys“R”Us, Inc. and the efforts of employees who volunteer to raise additional funds at more than 95 Walk Now for Autism Speaks events held in communities across the United States and Canada. Toys“R”Us also serves as the North American sponsor of the Autism Speaks walk program. This year, for the first time, people across the country can also sign up to “Walk With Geoffrey” online at www.WalkNowForAutismSpeaks.org/Geoffrey. Even if supporters aren’t near an event, they can still walk virtually alongside the company’s iconic mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe to raise funds for Autism Speaks.
As part of this overall philanthropic partnership, Toys“R”Us collaborated with Autism Speaks and the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making play accessible for children with disabilities, to identify toys that can help little ones with autism develop language, creativity and social skills, among others, while playing alongside siblings and friends. The “Ten Toys That Speak To Autism,” a special subset of the annual Toys“R”Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids, provides toy suggestions specifically for families and friends of children on the spectrum.
As a result of the company’s ongoing partnership with Autism Speaks, Toys“R”Us, Inc. was honored in 2012 with the Marketplace Award by Disability Matters. The company was also honored by the PR News CSR Awards in 2012 for its online efforts to support Autism Speaks.
A Long History of Support for the Special Needs Community
Toys“R”Us, Inc. has a long history of supporting the special needs community through the Toys“R”Us Children’s Fund, a public charity affiliated with the company. Organizations which receive support include: American Society for Deaf Children, Autism Speaks, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Down Syndrome Society, National Lekotek Center, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, Spina Bifida Association and United Cerebral Palsy. Click here to learn more about these organizations.