CARLSBAD — Kindness never stops, and in these divided times, Kids for Peace is literally driving home the message.
The nonprofit joined forces with New York-based The Toy Foundation for the first-ever “Great Toy Giveaway,” which began July 30 and runs through Aug. 4. The event stuffs a bus full of toys for underprivileged kids in North County and in Los Angeles, Central Valley and Sacramento.
The giveaway doesn’t stop there, though, as it will make stops in Illinois, Florida, New Jersey and New York until January, according to Gerry Ucelli, The Toys Foundation events and marketing manager said.
The toys will benefit kids in foster care, pediatric hospitals, community centers and military bases, Ucelli explained.
“We secured the toy donors … and funded the effort to make this happen,” he added. “It gives the kids the opportunity to live like kids. They’ve already had to go through adult-like situations in times that they weren’t prepared for it. We’re able to provide a comfort such as toys for them, they’re able to understand value and appreciate what it’s like to be kids and have fun with it.”
Carlsbad-based Kids for Peace founder Jill McManigal said the foundation reached out to her earlier this year to leverage each other’s reach and start a new tradition. One of the goals, she said, is to “play it forward,” where every child who receives a toy will then pass it along to another.
Those kids “playing it forward,” will also include a note of kindness and give their friendship to the next child who receives the toy.
The idea, she said, came from her organization’s “Great Kindness Challenge,” an annual global, weeklong event dedicated to spreading kindness throughout the world.
McManigal said Kids for Peace is always looking for pathways to put kindness and compassion into action. Sometimes, McManigal said, it feels better to give than receive, especially to another individual in a similar situation.
“The biggest gift is to give,” she added.
On July 30 McManigal and several dozen children stuff a colorful bus full of toys to take around North County. Over the course of the months-long initiative, thousands of toys will be donated.
“The purpose of it is to connect our kids to kindness through toys,” McManigal said. “The Toy Foundation is all about giving toys to kids in need, and we’re getting the Kids for Peace kids be the deliverers. The whole purpose is to spread more love, kindness and sunshine in the world.”
Clara Bos, vice president of the board of directors for Kids for Peace and also principal at Jefferson Elementary School, said kindness should be a way of life for the kids. Jefferson was the first school to form a Kids for Peace chapter, although the current total is 155 chapters worldwide.
In addition, she said, providing toys allows those children in difficult situations to be a kid again, even if for a short moment, because all kids should have the opportunity to feel important and valued.
“It should be a way of life, something that is a part of who we are,” Bos said, “especially when they really aren’t in a position to give you something back, that is the true measure of kindness.”
Photo Caption: Carlsbad-based Kids for Peace and The Toy Foundation launched the “Great Toy Giveaway” July 30 in Carlsbad as dozens of volunteers helped stuff a bus full of toys. The months-long initiative will give toys to disadvantaged kids in five states. Photo by Steve Puterski