Devon's Used Toy Drive 2018

Consumerism has redefined our societies and reshaped ecosystems
Since Devon was a young boy, I’ve had talks with him about some of the problems in our world and what we can do to make our world a better place.  Many of these conversations have to do with consumerism!  I explained where many products are made, how products are made and how they end up in the stores where we buy them.  I explain that we are voting each time we make a purchase. 
Child Labour in China
If we are buying a plastic toy made in China, then we are voting for more oil production, oppressing Chinese/Tiawanese/etc. workers and poor labour laws.  We are saying ‘Yes! I want to support large diesel boats that are travelling through our Arctic Oceans, breaking up the ice that polar bears need to survive!’.  ‘Yes! I want my plastic toy to spend 4 days in the back of a diesel transport truck that will bring my toy from the shipping yards of British Columbia all the way to Ontario!’
Shipyard in British Columbia unloading Chinese shipment
I explain – as best as I can – that 1 small plastic toy creates pollution all the way around the world and how this really is not a good thing.  I share how it is better to buy products made in Canada and how it’s even better to buy used products.  If you buy a used product, the carbon footprint has already been made, so we are not supporting (or voting for) more oil production.  By buying a used product, we are helping to keep used toy stores in business and our money is staying in the community instead of leaving our country to end up in a company’s bank account in another part of the world.
Consumerism leads to pollution and unhealthy environments
Heavy conversations for a 4-7 year old boy!!!!  But we take it slow and I only talk about small bits of these topics at a time.  Over the years, this story has grown so now Devon has a better understanding about what it means to ‘vote’ every time we purchase a product.
Are toy drives a good thing???
As we were nearing the end of September, this year, I began telling Devon how I don’t like the Toy Drives that will soon be coming to London, in preparation for this year’s Christmas.  I’ve said, “It drives me crazy that people are led to believe that by buying a child a new toy for Christmas, they are making a positive impact in that child’s life!  Don’t people realize that by buying a new toy for a child actually creates more pollution in our world and that will make the child’s life more difficult, as they grow up, because people are adding to the problems that are creating Climate Change!  You know, Devon, there are so many used toys in people’s basements that could be reused and given to these other children who don’t have much, and that would make everyone happy and no pollution would be created!  Why don’t people do that??”

As Devon and I continued our walk home from school, on that day, we walked in silence for a bit, letting what I just said sink in.  Then I asked Devon if he thought it would be a good idea if we started our own used toy drive… to inspire people to share with others without creating more pollution.  Devon told me that it was a great idea!

Then we got busy…

First, we made a nice flyer!  It took us a couple of weeks (1/2 hour here and there) to knock on all of our neighbours’ doors, on our street, and tell them about our plan.  We also emailed our flyer to Devon’s Grade 2 teacher.  She made copies for all the students in the class.

In case we weren’t home, when someone was dropping off a used toy, we set up a large plastic bin on our covered front porch.

For the next month, we collected a lot of toys!!!  Many times, when I got home from work, I’d find our porch bin full of toys, books, games and stuffies.  Twice, when I picked Devon up from school, his teacher handed me bags with more toys, from Devon’s classmates.  On top of organizing this whole event, Devon even made donations, himself!  He had outgrown his bike and scooter, so he decided to add them to our growing collection, as well as many books and puzzles.

One of our highlights was finding a box filled with toys, on our front porch... with a special note inside for Devon....

While all of this was going on, I made a few phone calls to some local charities until I found one that would accept our toys and be able to give them to children in need.  Sean Hunter is one of the event planners and organizers for The Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre.  We have worked together, on several occasions, on other ‘green’ community projects, so it was nice to learn that we would be working together again, as the GCCRC said that they would accept our donations.

It was great to learn that the GCCRC had never done anything like this before, and how Sean thought it would be a great addition to all the other things that they do at the centre.  I said to Devon, “Now look at that!  Because of our idea, a local charity was inspired to create a brand new program to help others!”

Did I mention that we had collected a lot of stuff???  Before we took it all to the GCCRC, we sorted out all the toys, books and puzzles and made sure that they were in pretty good condition… and 98% of the donations were in great shape!  Then we boxed them all up, put them into our van, and after a 15 minute drive we were at the centre meeting with Sean who helped us to unload all the boxes.

Just a short while ago, about a week before Christmas holidays, I got an email from Sean telling me that the Toys For Tots program (that’s the name that they decided to call their new program) was a great success!!!  Devon and I calculated that we were able to bring smiles to over 50 children who would be playing with all the donations that we had collected!  We were very happy with the results of these efforts!!!!

Devon even donated his scooter and bike that he outgrew!!

Now, that we have helped to create a new program, Devon and I are very excited to expand our toy drive, next year and collect even more used toys that will brighten the Christmas morning for even more children in London!!!!
This is the display table that was set up for the children at the centre!
I hope that this story will inspire readers from around the world in two ways….
1) I hope that readers will think more about what they are purchasing during their day to day lives….
2) I hope that readers will follow this example and start a used toy drive in their community, next year…. and the year after that…. and the year after that…..

Because Santa Claus was so impressed with Devon’s idea and the results of this plan, he left a wonderful surprise beside our Christmas tree!!!!  Can you guess what it was?

Yup!  A new to us (thus – used) six speed bicycle!!!!  Devon was so excited to jump on our bed and tell us all about what Santa had brought him!!!!  Later, after a Christmas waffle and egg breakfast (with locally made maple syrup and berries from our garden), we all got dressed up to go to the park by our house.  Devon got to try out his new bike and he loves it!!!!

Thanks, Devon, for being such a thoughtful and loving young man!!!  I can’t wait to see what we do next to make our world a better place for others!

Jim Kogelheide
December, 2018 

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