Heart-wrenching images of families forced to flee their homes carrying their children and just a few meagre belongings show the harsh realities of Ukrainians under siege. But amid the chaos, grief and fear, a Canadian toy company has stepped up to deliver inspiration, imagination and joy, one child at a time.
“Unfortunately, in situations of conflict, children are being deprived not just of their basic necessities, but also of the chance to just be a kid and the joy of play. If we can be there for these children and create a magical moment in their journey, it’s a chance to have a meaningful impact on their lives for years to come,” says Ronnen Harary, co-founder of Spin Master.
Harary recently hand delivered toys to Ukrainian children in refugee camps and shelters in Romania, Moldova, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. As part of his three-day mission, he also met with representatives from organizations that played an instrumental role in delivering close to 100,000 toys to those children, including IsraAID, JRoots and Slovenska Katolicka Charita (Slovak Catholic Charity).
Harary has witnessed the power of toys and stuffed animals firsthand. “Toys may seem a small gesture but in a moment of crisis and displacement, they can provide a great deal of comfort,” he says. “Seeing the smiles on their faces when you hand them a toy knowing they probably left everything they owned behind is tremendously moving.”
Spin Master is a global leader in the children’s entertainment space. The Canadian success story was founded in 1994 by three friends from the University of Western Ontario (now Western University). It’s best known for award-winning brands PAW Patrol, Bakugan, Kinetic Sand, Air Hogs, Hatchimals, Rubik’s Cube and GUND.
Driven by a strong sense of social responsibility, Harary founded The Toy Movement in 2014. The global initiative provides toys to children who are caught in poverty, war, conflict and natural disasters, ensuring they have the opportunity to experience the simple yet profound joy of play.
The Toy Movement has conducted missions to places like Iraq, Israel, Mexico and South Africa. It donated toys to the Dadaab Refugee Camp – home to refugees and asylum seekers – in Kenya. In total, it has delivered more than 665,000 toys to disadvantaged or displaced children, with some receiving their first toy ever through The Toy Movement.
“We hope not to go anywhere but wherever there is an issue and wherever there are children who are displaced from their homes, we want to be there and we will coordinate, partner and problem-solve to make sure that these toys are delivered,” says Harary.
Globally, millions of children are caught in situations that deprive them of play, an essential building block of healthy development because it allows children to discover, engage, create and solve problems. That impacts their lives not only in the short term but for generations to come.
Harary’s belief that every child has the right to be a child and experience the joy of play is contagious. Spin Master teamed up with their partners at Nickelodeon to translate PAW Patrol: The Movie™ into Ukrainian and arrange screenings of the movie for children in refugee camps. At the onset of the conflict, Spin Master made a $100,000 financial donation shared equally by The Red Cross Canada and UNICEF Canada in support of their Ukraine campaigns. As employees of the global company asked how they could help, Spin Master initiated a matching campaign in support of organizations mounting humanitarian support that has raised close to $50,000 to date.
Spin Master works with a diverse group of partners to support communities impacted by conflict, pandemics, natural disasters and trauma. Here at home, its initiatives include a $10,000 donation to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and toy donations to Indigenous children impacted by forest fires in Northern Ontario.
Additionally, Spin Master invests in charitable organizations and educational programs that help children and youth learn through play, harness their creativity and develop the skills to achieve things they thought unimaginable. For instance, it supports The Learning Partnerships by funding the curriculum redesign and expansion of the 13 (Investigate! Invent! Innovate!) program for Grades 1 through 8. It serves as the Lead National Partner for the Invention Convention, where students invent creative solutions to everyday problems.
Spin Master’s Future of Play Scholarship Program was founded in 2021 help fund post-secondary education in the fields of toy design, digital game development, creative production and animation for students from underrepresented communities, including BIPOC, women and LGBTQIA+. Applications for this year’s recipients are now open at https://www.spinmastercareers.com/global/be/scholarships .
To learn more about Spin Master’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, visit https://www.spinmaster.com/en-US/corporate/corporate-social-responsibility/.
Disclaimer: This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Spin Master.