I was in the Toy Industry Association offices last weeks when a new picture on the wall caught my eye. It was a map of the United States and at the bottom were the insignia of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines. It showed the many military bases where the Toy Industry Foundation, the toy industry’s charitable arm, had given out thousands and thousands of toys to military children. The map was inscribed with hand written notes from representatives of those services thanking the Toy Industry Foundation for its help. One inscription read: “Your gifts have made a difference and brought joy to thousands of Army children and youth.”
The map had been created by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America with which the TIF has been working in its charitable outreach to the military. The map was not a polished production but rather something that looked a bit handmade. There was something about it that touched me and I thought that it was something that everyone in the toy industry needed to know about. We hear a lot about the TIF but perhaps are unaware of the impact it really has.
So, in order to learn more I contacted Jean Butler, the Executive Director of the Toy Industry Foundations. Here is our interview:
Richard: What does the Toy Industry Foundation do?
Jean: The mission of the Toy Industry Foundation is to provide joy and comfort to children in need through toys and play. We reach these children through our cornerstone program, The Toy Bank; through grant making; and through our national partnerships with Boys and Girls Clubs of America Military Services, My Stuff Bags and Ronald McDonald House Charities. TIF supports each national partnership with grant funding and most importantly, toys.
Richard: What can you tell our readers about the results of your efforts?
Jean: TIF has chosen to focus its resources on providing joy and comfort to impoverished children, sick children, foster children who have been abused, neglected and abandoned and children in military families. TIF reaches more than 500,000 of these children EVERY year. Our reach is directly linked to the number of toys the toy industry donates in a given year. That is why fortifying the Toy Bank program with toys and raising cash to support these operations are critically important to TIF.
Richard: I understand that you recently were honored by some of the organizations you helped. Can you tell us about that?
Jean: The TIF Board of Trustees recognized that children in military families are particularly deserving of joy and comfort because of the impact that deployments have on these children. They suffer from greater degrees of stress and anxiety than children in non-military families. What better way is there to provide joy to these children than with a toy? By partnering with the Boys and Girls Clubs it allows us to establish greater focus and reach a greater population of children in military families. TIF's national partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of America Military Services is the first ever national toy distribution program to serve EVERY branch of the US military. TIF will distribute toys to 30 bases around the globe this year. We also supplement this activity with live toy distribution events at a high deployment base for EACH branch of the US military. This partnership has gone from 0 to 60 in less than two years. Would you believe that we are expecting 9,000 children to attend the Ramstein Air Base event in Germany in October?!
As a token of their gratitude, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America presented the Toy Industry Foundation with a beautiful framed map of the US which pinpoints all of the states that have received toys. It also contains official seals from every branch of US military with personal messages of thanks from the Base Commanding Officers and HQ for the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. It is a visual testament to the impact the toy industry has had thus far on our nation's military families.
Richard: How can people and companies get involved with the Toy Industry Foundation?
Jean: There are several ways people and companies can get involved with TIF:
- Donating toys to The Toy Bank. We need them! Toy Bank feeds a network of more than 200 charities and it feeds our national partnerships.
- Purchasing an ad in the Tribute Book (a book centered around the Toy of the Year Awards event), becoming a member of Leaders Circle (a year-round personal donation program), making a corporate donation. Your cash fundraising supports our operations and programs.
- Participating in the new Play Connects grant program. TIA members can nominate a charity in their community to receive a grant of up to $10,000.
- Attending a TIF event. Those in the toy industry are always welcome!
For more information about TIF, please visit our website at toyindustryfoundation.org.
Richard: Do you have a toy in your office?
Jean: Yes, I have toys in my office. My favorite is an electronic megaphone. I like to use it periodically to ease stress and generate some laughter. Works every time!