Spreading joy, hope... and Zhu Zhu Pets
Over the years I've had lots of fun working with MomSelect and Cepia to promote their line of Zhu Zhu Pets toys, doing product reviews, hosting giveaways and even throwing parties where my kids and their friends get to take Zhu Zhu pets home! Despite all these fun opportunities, I think the most rewarding aspect of my partnership with Zhu Zhu pets has been my participation in their holiday charity initiative, the Random Acts of Zhu program.
I was fortunate to be chosen to take part in last year's Random Acts of Zhu 2010 program, where 100 bloggers donated 10,000 toys to kids throughout the country. I teamed up with some friends to host a Zhu Zhu holiday party for the kids at a local shelter, where we gave about 2 dozen Zhu Zhu pets to underprivileged kids. The Pea, Jammy, 3Po and their friends had a wonderful time showing the other kids how to play with their new Zhu Zhu pets and how to make little houses for them out of cardboard and bits of colored paper. Also, with the help of my blog readers we donated the rest to a second shelter near Alfie's office and to our local Ronald McDonald House. I think they realized they could have as much fun giving Zhu Zhu pets as receiving them, so they were only too happy to help me play Santa again this year.
This year's RAZ program is bigger and better; not only did I receive 3 boxes of Zhu Zhu pets to donate, I also received a variety of playsets and accessories to go with the Zhu Zhu pets! Last year our playroom was filled to the brim with boxes; this year the donations wouldn't even fit in the playroom. They covered our porch and filled our van!
Finding an organization to donate the Zhu Zhu Pets to was not difficult at all. Last year I had the opportunity to visit and take a tour of a Ronald McDonald House in Chicago, and it really struck me how much good they are doing, by giving families by providing low-cost housing near children's medical centers. It's difficult enough having a seriously ill child, without having to factor in the cost of staying someplace close so that their child can benefit from having their family nearby. The hospital is the last place anyone would want to be over the holidays, and the Ronald McDonald Houses does so much good in keeping families together during a very difficult time. I've spoken with volunteers and residents at the House, and they are so grateful for any bit of comfort and support and semblance of home that they can get. I went on their website and saw the magic word -- Zhu Zhu Pets -- on their holiday wishlist, so there was no need to look any further. If getting a new toy for the holidays can help lift a sick child's spirits (or the spirits of his or her much-neglected sibling), then so be it -- this is the perfect place.
This paper crane sculpture hangs from the ceiling of the common living area of our local Ronald McDonald house. According to Japanese legend, the crane is a mystical and holy creature, and anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish. It's a beautiful and moving work of art, and to me it symbolizes perfectly what Ronald McDonald House does: they give hope. They give comfort and support and let families stay together in sickness, as they do in health. When you have that, you gain strength... and when you are strong, you can dare to hope.
The kids have also toured Ronald McDonald House, so they are already familiar with its mission and purpose, and they were only too happy to help me play Santa. We made quite a few trips from our van to the lobby, and all those Zhu Zhu pets and playsets made an impressive pile under their holiday tree!
The volunteers at the reception desk were so delighted and thankful to receive such a huge donation of new toys. Since many children residing at Ronald McDonald House have compromised immune systems, they do not accept used toys -- but there is no way I could afford to make such a huge donation on my own. That's why I'm so grateful to Cepia for including me in their giving program. It is so wonderful to be able to see the happiness -- and even better, to have my kids see the happiness -- that giving can bring.
Disclaimer: I received no form of compensation for this post or my participation in the Random Acts of Zhu program. All products were sent to me for the express purpose of donating to various persons and organizations in need.