WAYNE, N.J., Oct. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Toys"R"Us, Inc. today announced the launch of its seventh annual nationwide fundraising campaign to benefit the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, during which the company will help spread Christmas cheer to some of the 14.1 million children in need in the United States. Building on last year's partnership with Shaquille O'Neal, the company has once again teamed with the four-time NBA Champion to invite customers to "Join Shaq Give Back." As his holiday alter-ego Shaq-A-Claus, O'Neal will encourage shoppers to donate new, unwrapped toys and cash in Toys"R"Us® and Babies"R"Us® stores nationwide and online at Toysrus.com/ToysforTots beginning Sunday, October 31.
According to a recent report from the United States Census Bureau, the poverty rate climbed to 14.3 percent in 2009 — the highest level since 1994. And, the rise was steepest for children, with one in five residents under 18 living below the poverty line. Given these escalating statistics, providing gifts to all children living in poverty has become increasingly difficult each year. In 2009, through an outpouring of consumer support, the Toys"R"Us fundraising campaign raised $3.4 million and nearly 335,000 toys, which helped the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation provide gifts to 7.4 million children.
"As poverty rates continue to rise, we remain steadfast in our commitment to help ensure no child goes without a gift on Christmas, and we're proud to partner with Shaquille O'Neal to raise awareness and funds through this special initiative," said Jerry Storch, Chairman and CEO, Toys"R"Us, Inc. "We're making it easy to get involved in the Toys for Tots campaign by serving as THE holiday giving headquarters for the thousands of holiday shoppers that will frequent our stores this season."
After fifteen years of buying gifts at Toys"R"Us to distribute to underprivileged children in cities across the country, O'Neal earned the name "Shaq-A-Claus" and the NBA icon formalized his partnership with the company last year. This Christmas season, the legend of Shaq-A-Claus will live on as O'Neal makes surprise visits to Toys"R"Us stores in the coming months to shop for needy children and encourage customers to join him in giving back.
"My parents always encouraged me to give back to those less fortunate, and ever since I made it to the NBA, I've been visiting Toys"R"Us stores during the holiday season to buy gifts for kids in need," said Shaquille O'Neal. "As a father myself, I know firsthand how magical it is for a child to open a gift on Christmas morning, which is why I'm excited to report for Toys for Tots duty this year as part of my partnership with Toys"R"Us. I hope everyone will join me so, together, we can spread holiday cheer to millions of needy kids in the U.S."
"R"Us Stores Serve as THE Toys for Tots Collection Destination
As the largest retail partner in the history of Toys for Tots, Toys"R"Us, Inc. has raised over $20 million and collected 2.7 million toys since the partnership began in 2004. During this year's six-week campaign beginning Sunday, October 31, new, unwrapped toys will be collected through Sunday, December 5 at all "R"Us® stores across the country, including the company's 600 Toys"R"Us® Express pop-up locations. Collected toys will be distributed to children in the communities where they are donated, making this a truly local program. Customers can also make monetary donations at Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores nationwide through Christmas Eve.
On Thursday, November 4 and Friday, November 5, Marines will report for Toys for Tots duty, making special appearances at Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores to generate awareness about the fundraising campaign in local markets.
Customers Can "Join Shaq Give Back" Through Interactive Microsite
The company has developed an interactive microsite for online visitors to "Join Shaq Give Back" at Toysrus.com/ToysforTots, where they'll be greeted by a video message from Shaq-A-Claus himself. Monetary donations also will be accepted through the online microsite. Additionally, customers can read up on O'Neal's history of giving by checking out "The Legend of Shaq-A-Claus," which can be played and shared as an audio file. The microsite also offers a list of suggested donations for kids of various age groups that shoppers can print out and bring to the store.
"R"Us Facebook Fans Can Stay Updated on Campaign Milestones
The official Toys"R"Us Facebook fan page, Facebook.com/Toysrus will be Shaq-ified this holiday season, complete with images of and personal messages from O'Neal dressed as Shaq-A-Claus, as well as exclusive video clips and more. Using his high-profile social media status, O'Neal will be tweeting (@THE_REAL_SHAQ), blogging and posting on Facebook throughout the season to encourage people to donate. Information about O'Neal's participation in the Toys"R"Us campaign to benefit Toys for Tots also will be featured on his new website, ShaqDeez.com, which will launch in November.
"With even more children living in poverty today, we are truly grateful that Toys"R"Us is joining with us for the seventh year to help children across the country receive a gift to unwrap on Christmas morning," said Lt. General Pete Osman, USMC (Ret), President and CEO, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. "We encourage Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us customers to 'Join Shaq' and help Toys for Tots deliver more toys than ever before to those children who need them most."
The Toys"R"Us Children's Fund also supports the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and made a $250,000 grant to jumpstart the 2010 fundraising campaign.
About Toys"R"Us, Inc.
Toys"R"Us, Inc. is the world's leading dedicated toy and juvenile products retailer, offering a differentiated shopping experience through its family of brands. It currently sells merchandise in more than 1,560 stores, including 845 Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores in the United States, and more than 510 international stores and 200 licensed stores in 33 countries and jurisdictions. In addition, it exclusively operates the legendary FAO Schwarz brand and sells extraordinary toys in the brand's flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. With its strong portfolio of e-commerce sites including Toysrus.com, Babiesrus.com, eToys.com, FAO.com and babyuniverse.com, it provides shoppers with a broad online selection of distinctive toy and baby products. Headquartered in Wayne, NJ, Toys"R"Us, Inc. employs approximately 70,000 associates worldwide. The company is committed to serving its communities as a caring and reputable neighbor through programs dedicated to keeping kids safe and helping them in times of need.
SOURCE Toys"R"Us, Inc.