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.
In 2012, the Toys“R”Us Children’s Fund pledged $1 million to become the first Founding Partner of the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games. More than 3,500 Special Olympics athletes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia competed in 17 sports. An estimated 10,000 volunteers, as well as 50,000 additional spectators attended the Games. Toys“R”Us served as the Presenting Sponsor of the first-ever Young Athletes™ Festival, a unique event that debuted at the Games in June 2014. The Festival provided opportunities for children ages 2 ½ to 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.
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.
Toys“R”Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids
It has been 20 years since Toys“R”Us, Inc. first published the 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. These toys are everyday playthings that kids can enjoy alongside their peers, siblings and friends while also building development skills.
Since 1994, Toys“R”Us 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 Albert Pujols, Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas, 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.
As part of our mission to create positive play experiences for all children, regardless of ability, we are presenting this year’s Guide with the hope that the toys featured help foster inclusion, inspire children to reach new milestones and work toward developing critical skills, while having fun.
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 nearly $19 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 raise additional funds through participation in more than 100 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.
As part of this overall philanthropic partnership, Toys“R”Us and the Toys”R”Us Children’s Fund 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 kids with autism develop language, creativity and social skills, while playing alongside siblings and friends. The list of Ten Toys That Speak To Autism is a special subset of the annual Toys“R”Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids that 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.