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Thursday, August 02 2018 13:44

How The Rock Father & Toys 'R' Us Inspired ASTRA's TOYS FOR JOY

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When I began writing about the collapse of Toys "R" Us last summer, I had no idea just how deep the rabbit hole would go. In fact, I had no intention of writing much beyond my initial concern, and even a few months in, I was still sharing some of the public-facing statements issued by the company - that it was "business as usual" during the "restructuring." But it wasn't business as usual, and we all know what ended up happening. It's the summer of 2018, and in the United States, Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" us no longer exist. One of my most widely-shared articles was published back on March 27, and in addition to news that a group of vendors led by Crayola was gearing-up for a fight and alleging "irresponsible and potentially illegal behavior" by certain executives at Toys "R" Us, I raised another concern: that numerous charities would be taking a potentially devastating hit. This week, I received word that ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) and Good360 have stepped-up to face the challenge with the launch of TOYS FOR JOY. Even more surprising was that I was told that it was my writing that inspired the movement.

From my March 27th article: "There's also another side that hasn't been mentioned much: the charities. Toys "R" Us was a big supporter of numerous charities, and that's on top of their own philanthropic arm, The Toys "R" Us Children's Fund. During the holiday season, TRU was a major supporter of Toys For Tots, and other initiatives throughout the year have supported partners including St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Born This Way Foundation, Special Olympics and others. They'd also donated over $100M in product though a giving program administered by Good 360. Now these organizations will have to scramble to make up for the support that they're now losing."

The email that I received came from Tami Murphy of Grand Prix International. A member of the ASTRA Board of Directors and a Co-Chair of the New England Chapter of Women in Toys, Tami mentioned that my article struck a nerve, and that together with Brian Turtle of Endless Games, they got in touch with Good360 and the new program was quickly realized. With ASTRA officially on-board, TOYS FOR JOY was able to launch - but for those wishing to help, the clock is already ticking! Here's the official announcement...

Announcing TOYS FOR JOY:

Toys for Joy, a new program of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) that offers a simple way for toy manufacturers to provide toys to children in need, is now accepting product donations, ASTRA announced today.

In partnership with Good360, a highly respected global leader in product philanthropy that sources and distributes donated goods, participating ASTRA manufacturers can provide products that will be disseminated to fully vetted charitable organizations serving disadvantaged children. Many of these organizations previously received toys from the now-defunct Toys R Us donation program that also partnered with Good360.

“The toy industry is experiencing some change and disruption, but ASTRA believes this should not impact children’s access to the magic of play,” said Kimberly Mosley, President of ASTRA. “ASTRA’s Toys for Joy program will help community organizations with a history of putting toys in the hands and hearts of children continue those important programs. Toys for Joy is another way that ASTRA members can be mighty together and make this year’s holiday season one that kids all over the country will long remember.”

Manufacturers wishing to donate products are asked to complete a donation form by August 15th . Products must be shipped and received by August 31st to ensure distribution for the holiday season. A minimum of one pallet is requested. More information can be found at Good360.

A massive thanks to ASTRA and Good360 for pulling this together, and thanks to Tami for sharing the news with me. It's a wonderful feeling to know that a few words can still go a very long way and that even in tumultuous times, there's still people rallying the troops to do some good! And I should mention that I am still working on my hyper-local Rock Father Santa effort here in Illinois as well. Since 2014, I've helped to provide holiday gifts to 194 children across 76 local families. And yes, I'm always looking for an assist! More info here.

James Zahn

James Zahn is not a journalist, nor a blogger, though he may be credited as such by others, or even accept the title... depending on the circumstance.  Instead, he considers himself largely to be an "entertainment and lifestyle writer," bringing 25+ years of experience in the entertainment and publishing industries into the family realm as THE ROCK FATHER™.

As a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur, James now finds himself raising a pair young girls - The Rock Daughters™ - along with his wife from their Illinois home.

He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, has contributed to The Toy Book and writes a regular Star Wars column - Transmissions from a Galaxy Far, Far Away for The Pop Insider. He also regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global.

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

Learn more here

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