WAYNE, N.J., Oct. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- As a company committed to helping children in need, Toys"R"Us® today announced that it has once again teamed up with four-time NBA Champion, actor, philanthropist and entrepreneur Shaquille O'Neal to launch its eighth annual nationwide fundraising campaign to benefit the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.
To help make the holidays brighter for some of the more than 16 million children living in poverty in the United States, now through December 4, Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us® stores nationwide will accept new, unwrapped toy donations. Cash contributions will also be accepted online at Toysrus.com/ToysforTots through Christmas Eve. To jumpstart this year's campaign, the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund, a public charity affiliated with Toys"R"Us, Inc., has provided a $250,000 grant to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.
For a third consecutive year, "Shaq-A-Claus is Coming to Town" to engage and motivate Toys"R"Us customers to give back to children who need it most. Throughout the duration of the campaign, customers will see brand-new in-store signage showcasing the Shaq-tastic philanthropist towering over a pyramid of children, creating the first-ever "Shaq-mas tree." Additionally, Shaquille will make surprise visits to Toys"R"Us stores throughout the Christmas season to shop for toys to donate to Toys for Tots, spreading Christmas cheer.
"My Santa hat is on, and I'm stepping into the role of my favorite alter-ego, Shaq-A-Claus. It's my personal mission to make sure no kid goes without a toy to open on Christmas, so I'm thrilled to be teaming up with Toys"R"Us for a third year to support the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation," said Shaquille O'Neal. "When I was young, I received a very special, unexpected gift, a Dr. J-signed basketball. To this day, I remember the excitement I felt, and I'd love for the millions of kids in need across the country to experience that same joy. That's why I'll be encouraging people every way I can to join me in giving back!"
In 2010, the Toys"R"Us fundraising campaign raised more than $3.6 million and collected more than 325,000 toys, which helped the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation provide gifts to more than 7 million children across the United States. According to a recent report published by the United States Census Bureau, the poverty rate climbed to 15.1 percent in 2010 – the highest level since 1993 – with more than 16 million children under 18 living in poverty. With the number of impoverished children growing each year, the company is more motivated than ever to help donate toys to these children.
"With an estimated 1 in 4 children now living in poverty, we recognize how important it is to ensure that no child goes without a gift to open on Christmas morning, which is why we're proud to launch our eighth annual Toys for Tots fundraising campaign," said Neil Friedman, President, Toys"R"Us, U.S. "We're excited that Shaquille O'Neal, who has a Shaq-sized heart and shares our commitment to helping kids in times of need, has joined us again in supporting our Toys for Tots program. We encourage kids and families across the country to join us, too, as we are determined to make this year's campaign the most successful yet."
Customers Can Help Kids in Need by Donating at "R"Us® Stores Nationwide
During this year's campaign, Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores nationwide will serve as THE holiday giving headquarters for Toys for Tots. Beginning today, new, unwrapped toys will be collected through December 4. In addition to donating toys, customers can make monetary donations at Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores nationwide through Christmas Eve.
"As we kick off our eighth year of partnership with Toys"R"Us, we are excited that this year's campaign will ultimately deliver smiles to millions of kids living in poverty through the gift of toys to unwrap this Christmas," said Lt. General Pete Osman, USMC (Ret), President and CEO, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. "In an effort to bring the joy of the holidays to the increasing number of kids who need it most, we encourage Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us customers to help us collect more toys than ever before."
Since the inception of the company's partnership with Toys for Tots, Marines have visited Toys"R"Us stores across the country to help kick off the annual toy collection drive for needy children in their area. On Thursday, November 3 and Friday, November 4, Marines will make special appearances at Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores nationwide to generate awareness about the fundraising campaign in local markets. All toys collected in-store are distributed to children in the communities where they are donated, making this a truly local program.
As the largest retail partner in the history of Toys for Tots, Toys"R"Us has raised over $23.6 million and collected 3 million toys since the partnership began in 2004.
A Shaq-sized Digital Footprint
To engage the online world in this worthwhile cause, Toys"R"Us has developed an interactive microsite at Toysrus.com/ToysforTots, where virtual visitors can get involved in this year's fundraising campaign. Not only can users make monetary donations online to Toys for Tots, but they can also enjoy additional Shaq-tastic content, including a video message from Shaq-A-Claus himself and a list of suggested donations that can be printed and brought to the store, as well as a history of the company's partnership with Toys for Tots.
The company will also utilize its official Toys"R"Us® and Babies"R"Us® Facebook pages, Facebook.com/Toysrus.com and Facebook.com/Babiesrus, to engage the online community throughout the holiday season, including exclusive Shaq-A-Claus content and special, behind-the-scenes photos of the 2011 Toys for Tots photo shoot. Utilizing his unique, Shaq-sized social media influence, Shaq-A-Claus will also tweet (@THE_REAL_SHAQ), blog and post on Facebook at Facebook.com/Shaq to drive awareness and encourage his followers to join him in giving back. Consumers can also visit Shaq.com, the destination to experience true Shaq-ness, where they can learn more about the many ways Shaquille is supporting the Toys"R"Us Toys for Tots fundraising campaign.
Behind-the-scenes images are available for download through this link: https://toysrus.sharefile.com/?cmd=d&id=ad335ea408a34fb8.
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. Merchandise is sold in 875 Toys"R"Us and Babies"R"Us stores in the United States and Puerto Rico, and in more than 520 international stores and over 200 licensed stores in 34 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 and FAO.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 annually 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.
About the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund
The Toys"R"Us Children's Fund is a public charity affiliated with Toys"R"Us, Inc., a company that unabashedly declares "We love kids!" The core mission of the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund is to keep children safe and help them in times of need. Since it was founded in 1992, the Toys"R"Us Children's Fund has contributed millions of dollars to qualified organizations that support that mission, including those providing disaster relief to children and families who are victims of large-scale crises. The Toys"R"Us Children's Fund also provides grants to leading organizations that support children with special needs.
Primary fundraising activities include the annual Toys"R"Us Children's Fund Gala, a private, invitation-only event that showcases the work of the Fund and raises money to support its many beneficiaries. This annual benefit has raised more than $95 million since its inception in 1985 and is one of the largest single-night fundraising events held in New York City.
SOURCE Toys"R"Us, Inc.