Toys"R"Us, U.S. today announced that its fundraising campaign to benefit Autism Speaks will begin Sunday, February 28 and continue through Friday, April 30. Throughout the campaign, monetary donations will be collected at all Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores and online at Toysrus.com/AutismSpeaks. Autism Speaks is the nation's leading organization dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
"Autism impacts countless families, including those of our customers and employees," said Jerry Storch, Chairman and CEO, Toys"R"Us, Inc. "As a company that loves kids, we are proud to lend our support once again to help Autism Speaks find the missing pieces of the autism puzzle by raising money and awareness for this disorder."
Skill-Building Toys and Safe Play Tips
As part of this philanthropic initiative, Toys"R"Us has created several programs to help parents and caregivers of children with autism. The company 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 with autism.
Research shows that children with cognitive, emotional or social limitations, including those with autism, are more prone to accidental injuries. With guidance from leading safety organizations and Autism Speaks, the Safe Play Tips are relevant for children with autism. These tips include:
- Avoid Trigger Toys: Opt for toys that have volume control for children who are adversely affected by loud noises.
- Read Labels for Ability: Choose toys that correspond with a child's learning level rather than merely matching a toy with his/her actual age.
- Never Leave a Child Unsupervised: It is especially critical that a child with special needs is properly supervised by an adult or trusted caregiver at all times.
"The "R"Us family and its customers have continually opened their hearts to support Autism Speaks in its mission to advocate for the nearly 750,000 children on the autism spectrum in this country," said Mark Roithmayr, President of Autism Speaks. "Toys"R"Us, Inc. is such a valued partner, and we are excited about the fundraising potential of this year's program."
Comprehensive information about the 2010 campaign is available on the company's dedicated website, Toysrus.com/AutismSpeaks. The "Ten Toys That Speak To Autism" and a full list of Safe Play Tips can be found here, as well as a blog titled "Speaking About Autism," which offers updates and information throughout the nine-week fundraising effort. The website, as well as campaign signage in Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores, features the "Faces of Autism," a striking series of portraits highlighting children with autism taken by photographer Thomas Balsamo.
Walking the Walk for Autism Speaks
In addition to the fundraising campaign, Toys"R"Us is kicking off its national sponsorship of Walk Now for Autism Speaks, a year-long series of more than 80 walk events in communities throughout North America. Teams of regional employees will walk alongside the company's iconic mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe and individuals with autism, their families and friends to raise money and awareness.
All funds raised in Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores, online and through the Walk Now for Autism Speaks events will go directly to Autism Speaks to support research and advocacy efforts. Earlier this month, the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund kicked off the 2010 campaign by providing a $400,000 grant to Autism Speaks. Customers who donate $10 or more to Autism Speaks at any Toys"R"Us or Babies"R"Us store in the United States will receive a colorful, floral-themed reusable shopping bag designed by a talented artist with autism, James Hogarth, while supplies last.
Since the partnership launched in 2007, Toys"R"Us, Inc., the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund and customer contributions have combined to provide Autism Speaks with more than $5.5 million. Last year's in-store and online fundraising campaign raised more than $1.9 million for Autism Speaks. This year, for the first time, Toys"R"Us, Canada will lend its support to the cause by collecting donations in its nearly 70 stores and online at Toysrus.ca.