Every year around this time, I borrow my PittsburghMom page to talk about another project near and dear to my heart, my charity, Play it Forward Pittsburgh. Play it Forward is a gently used toy drive that happens every year in November and December. This year I invite you to help us make 2014 the best drive yet.
Like every parent, I want my kids to grow up to be happy, successful and charitable. I not only want them to find whatever career path or lifestyle makes them most happy, but I want them to realize the important of spreading love and charity.
Throughout the years we've "dabbled" in charitable giving. We've donated our time to the local library, bought toys for Toys for Tots and planted flowers for Cub Scouts.
Two years ago, however, on a whim, a friend and I started a charity that has allowed us to really show our children the value of giving.
Play it Forward Pittsburgh is a gently used children's toy drive. We ask local families to clean out their playrooms and donate things they're not using anymore or would like to see go to a new home, then turn around and give them all out to families in need at a "shop for free" day in December. This year's drive will be held at the Century III Mall in West Mifflin. We will collect toys there from December 1 - December 12 and then have our "shopping day" there on December 13. The idea started when I was cleaning out my children's playroom and wanted to give our unused toys to a new family.
We have several toy drop off/donation locations scattered throughout the region (they can be found on our website). www.playitforwarpittsburgh.com or you can bring donations directly to the mall beginning December (hours are listed on the website as well).
We started the project on a whim and it was an instant hit. The first year in the course of two weeks we collected 5,000 toys. Last year, our third year, that number grew to well over 50,000 toys. We hope it's even bigger this year.
I like that it allows my children to look through their own toys and decide what to keep and what to donate to a new little boy. They enjoy helping at the donation site to clean and sort toys and even on the "Shopping Day" to help families select toys for their kids.
What I love most about the toy drive, in addition to helping local families, is the lesson it's teaching my kids. They now understand that we have more than we need and that some people don't. They see us working hard to give to others. They know it's possible and worthwhile to help others.
I am always so impressed that so many volunteers bring their children to both the drop off days to help sort as well as the "shopping" day. And they all said the same thing, that they wanted their kids to see it for themselves. To help, to give back. And the kids all seemed to "get it". Some were older than my kids, but some were younger. All of them were there for the same reason. To help people.
Most parents thank us afterwards for giving them the opportunity to share this lesson with their kids. I think it's important and I'm so glad they do as well. It warms my heart to know we are raising a generation of altruistic people.
To find more information on how to donate toys, receive toys, or donate your time or money, please vist our website www.playitforwardpittsburgh.com or visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/playitforwardpittsburgh
2012 Play it Forward Shopping Day
Photo by Allie Wynands, Point Park News Service