The Toy Industry helps bring toys to kids in military families

Although this isn’t an environmental story, it is important. Doing something that makes children feel happy – particularly kids in military families –  simply takes a willingness and commitment to act.

It's often unrecognized that kids of military families serve too

Our military helps keep our nation strong and safe. But there’s an often-overlooked segment behind our military – the children. When one or both of their parents are called to active duty. the children suffer in silence, generally unrecognized for their involuntary service.

Realizing the enormous challenges these kids face, the Toy Industry and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America have created a program that distributes toys to children at military bases with the highest rate of deployment. Launched in late 2009, Play Comforts is the first national toy distribution program to serve every branch of the military and its families.

The entire industry gathers through this to provide toys to kids in need, said Adrienne Appell, spokesperson for the Toy Industry Association.

Through their partnership in Play Comforts, the Toy Industry Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of America distribute new toys and games to children of military families at military bases across the country with the highest rate of deployment.

Caden Crook 2 1/2, receives a toy at The Toy Industry Foundation and Boys & Girls Clubs of America Military Families toy distribution at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. AP Images for Toy Industry Foundation.

In 2010, Play Comforts distributed toys to children at twenty-one military bases, representing the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines. This year, with increased funding, this will expand to include wounded warriors and all military branches at thirty bases.

Last year’s distribution was also international, delivering approximately 250 toys to children based in and around Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Those children are so far removed from their families and friends,” said Amanda McDorman, Senior Manager for the Toy Industry Foundation.

“Nobody even thinks of them being there,” she said, “and they’re serving too, in their own way.”

The partnership to distribute toys through the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) was an obvious one. Boys and Girls Clubs were already serving children on military bases.

BGCA works with the military to identify which bases have the highest rate of deployment, notifying the toy industry of this. When a toy distribution takes place, Play Comforts distributes toys to children of military families living both on and off-base.

Waiting for hundreds of military kids to receive their toys

“These children face more challenges than most, with one or both parents deployed,” says Ms. Terrill Wicks, BGCA’s Vice President of Military Services and International Projects. “Being able to put smiles on faces through the gift of a toy or game is a wonderful thing.”

It’s a testament to the difference an industry can make in the lives of children who inadvertently have one of the toughest jobs there is.

Toys are donated to the Toy Industry Foundation by toy manufacturers, retailers and distributors. At the industry’s two major trade shows – Toy Fair and their fall Toy Preview, collections are taken for this program. These are taken to the Boys and Girls Clubs headquarters in Atlanta, then distributed. Also, individual toy companies, distributors and manufacturers will distribute products they want to go have to these families. The Foundation makes sure they get into the hands of the kids.

Toy Industry Foundation give-away to kids from military families at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

“Play is so important, especially for every child faced with deployment and multiple deployments,” said McDorman. “We’re happy to provide some comfort in that situation.”

This topic has recently been in the news, with the First and Second Lady encouraging the public to get involved and support military families through the Joining Forces program.

“There are so many ways that every American can lend a hand and make a difference,” said Dr. Jill Biden.

The public can support the military in their community. They can also make monetary donations to the Toy Industry Foundation, said McDorman.

“That helps us with the logistics of getting the toys from a donor all the way to getting a toy to a kid in need,” she said.

The Toy Foundation sponsors a summer toy drive – which runs from May 2nd through August 31st.

To make a donation to the Toy Industry Foundation, go to their website at ToyIndustryFoundation.org.

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