Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Working The Toy Drive

Today our company did some volunteer work at the CP24 CHUM Christmas Wish, an organization that collects toys from various individual and corporate donors and distributes them to various charities in the Greater Toronto area.  We had two groups of volunteers, about a dozen who attended in the morning and 5 of us who took the afternoon shift (we were joined by volunteers from other companies and some high school students, for a total of about 20).  
L to R: me, Harvinder, Bal and Sean (absent: Toni)
As I was leaving the office, I had joked with my boss that I was going to play with the toys.  As it happens, that's almost what we got to do!  We were given a piece of paper with the sex, age group and number of toys to be chosen (i.e. boys, age 9, 10 toys) and we went in pairs to where the toys had been sorted by age and sex and got to pick out the designated number of items.  We were told not to rush the process and just pick the first toy we laid eyes on but rather to give some thought as to what a child of that age might enjoy and choose accordingly.  In addition to individual gifts, we were also to add a number of board games to the bag, one game for every 3 or 4 kids.
Feeling like a kid again with all these toys!
We were advised what local organization would be receiving the toys (many of whom I had never heard of) and whether or not they had any restrictions on the type of toys - for example, some groups didn't want any toy guns, other groups of a more religious nature didn't want toys that involved witchcraft, magic or vampires.  We were also asked to focus more on "playability" (how much enjoyment the kid might get from playing with the toy and for how long), rather than worry about how much each toy might be worth.

My colleague Sean and I had fun with our first assignment, picking toys for boys aged 4, 5 and 6.  There were boxes and boxes of toys for this age group for both boys and girls and lots of board games to choose from.  We often picked toys that we had enjoyed or had coveted when we were growing up - the classics like Mr. Potato Head, Trouble, the game of LIFE (somehow I always ended up with about 12 kids whenever I played that game, always had to drive 2 cars around the board!), Battleship...
More than enough for 3-5 year olds
The pickings were a little slimmer for the 6-9 age groups for both boys and girls as well as 0 to 3 year olds.  We had to "shop" for each of these groups and that took a little longer but eventually, we found enough toys or were able to combine smaller items for more impact.

I was saddened to see that the boxes for the older kids were practically empty.
Empty boxes for the older kids :(
Kids 10 and up seem to be the forgotten ones, although there were a few items for the tweens and there were a number of books available that might be suitable (I noticed several copies of The Hunger Games books on hand, which I'm sure will be appreciated).

When you are out and about shopping for your loved ones this holiday season, I urge you to consider buying a toy or two for a needy older child (the toddlers could use some toys as well but at least they're young enough not to care if the toy they receive isn't too exciting, most of them would be just as happy playing with a cardboard box!)  But for the older kids, maybe they've already stopped believing in Santa Claus by the time they reach 9 or 10 but that doesn't mean they should be left out of the joy of receiving something special at Christmas time.  Suggestions from the CP24 Chum Christmas Wish website include:

- Gift cards (Zellers/HBC, Wal-Mart, HMV, Cineplex, Gap, Stitches, Chapters, Coles, Old Navy, Garage, Blue Notes, La Senza, etc.)
•    Electronic games, board games, books
•    Sports equipment (soccer, basketball, football, hockey, skateboards, scooters, etc.)
•    Roller blades, ice skates, snow boards
•    Bicycle helmets
•    Cosmetics (age appropriate: 16 – 18 years old)
•    Personal care and grooming gift packs
•    Hair products and accessories (curling irons, blow dryers, shavers, beard groomers, etc.)
•    Diaries, journals  
•    Creative and craft supplies
•    Purses, knapsacks/backpacks
•    Cameras with film and processing paid
•    Movies, music, and clock radios

If you have a child that age you're shopping for, please consider buying two of something they might enjoy and donating one of them. Every kid should feel special at this time of year, don't you think?

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