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Initiatives that make a difference

Barnardo’s and the Argos Toy Exchange – And three other charity-corporate partnerships based on the importance of play

Toy Exchange launch

The successful two-year partnership between Argos and Barnardo’s is one of a number of innovative relationships between toy companies and children’s charities in the sector.

Dear Argos, I am writing to say thank you to you and everyone who works for you for helping Barnardo’s help children this Christmas.”

Those are the words of one little girl who benefited from the partnership between Argos and Barnardo’s. The retail company has raised £1.2 million for Barnardo’s by running a Toy Exchange for the last two years. People took their unwanted toys to their local Argos or Barnardo's store in exchange for a £5 Argos voucher. The toys were sold by the children’s charity to raise vital funds for vulnerable young people in the UK.

In 2013, a TV advert backed up the campaign, along with support from the website, and social media from both Argos and Barnardo’s. Celebrity supporter and actress Denise Van Outen also helped get some fantastic media coverage.  

The initiative works well for us but its beauty lies in the fact that the concept is so simple,” says Gerard Cousins, Barnardo's Director of Retail. “All customers have to do to help the most disadvantaged children in society is donate their pre-loved toys.”

Play connection

Play and toys have a vital role in the work that Barnardo's does.

We use toys for all sorts of things,”

said Forbes Mutch, Head of Business Development at Barnardo’s, in an article in the magazine Progressive Preschool.

We use them as part of therapy treatment for traumatised children, for educational and social reasons within our children's centres – play is a vitally important part of what we do.”

In fact, there’s an innovative variety of partnerships between toy companies and charities across the sector, based on this play connection. Here are three of them.

National Autistic Society (NAS) and LEGO UK

This partnership is based on research which shows that LEGO toys may be able to help children who have autism overcome difficulties with social interaction. The organisations have worked together for four years and, in 2013, Christmas fundraising centred around a giant 3D LEGO advent calendar. The partnership has raised £80,000 which has paid for a playground at the NAS Radlett Lodge School in Hertfordshire.

Toys R Us and Marine Toys for Tots Foundation

Since 2004, the US arm of Toys R US has raised over $35.5 million and collected more than 4 million toys for Toys for Tots. Basketball star Shaquille O’Neal is the face of the partnership’s #NoWishTooBig campaign. Through this, supporters can choose a toy from the “The Great Big Shaq-A-Claus Wish List” to donate to a child who might not otherwise have a gift to open at Christmas. Children can also draw a picture of a toy they’d like to give to a child in need and upload it to Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Toys R Us then donate a toy to the charity on the child’s behalf.

Save the Children and Mattel

Mattel have worked with the US-based Save the Children since 2004 and donate thousands of toys to the international development charity’s “safe space shelters” for children in times of a disaster. They’ve contributed to Save the Children's response to the tsunami of 2004 in Indonesia, and the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile in 2010.

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