‘Tis the season when parents across Indiana clean out toy chests and playrooms to make space for new Hanukkah, Christmas or birthday gifts for their children. But what do we do with the perfectly good toys our children have outgrown? Six years ago, Angie Lacey, occupational therapist and preschool teacher, partnered with Hillary Key, owner of the Toy Chest, to ensure those toys find their way into the hands of deserving children in Central Indiana through their nonprofit, Project Play. Since 2016, Project Play has gifted more than 1,800 children with age appropriate toys to aid in their developmental play and learning.
Project Play accepts new and gently used toys and books in an effort to bring learning through play into every household. Donated items are delivered to deserving children in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas. “They get toys for a variety of reasons,” Lacey says. “We’ve had families who have had house fires, or lost their jobs. Toys are often the last thing people can buy.”
Once Project Play receives a referral, volunteers head to their inventory of donations and pack toys and books for delivery. Children referred for donations can be newborns through teens. Referrals can come from individuals connected to the child, or a family can self-nominate. Anyone may submit a referral form for a child by answering a few simple questions to determine the most appropriate toys and books for that child. Children receive on average five toys and five to 10 books, which are delivered to the family’s home.
Project Play relies heavily on volunteer support, especially during the holiday season, when they receive nearly half of their referrals. Volunteer opportunities are available for individuals, families, or groups (such as Scouts or sports teams) and include donation delivery, sorting and organizing items in the warehouse, packing donation bags, and even take-home projects, such as categorizing books or changing out batteries in toys. Project Play is also in need of adult volunteers with skills or interests in marketing and fundraising.
If you’d like to support Project Play, please consider nominating a deserving child, serving as a volunteer, or donating gently used toys or books (donations can be received at 6658 E. 10th Street, Indianapolis, or at the Toy Chest, 125 S. Van Buren Street, Bloomington). Please note, Project Play cannot accept used stuffed animals, play weapons or equipment such as car seats, swings or bouncers, and they are always in need of toys for teens and children under 2.
Through gifts and generosity, Project Play creates opportunities for play and learning for deserving children across central Indiana. “We believe in toys, we believe in play,” Lacey says. “It’s just a way for us to make sure kids are able to develop and learn. Our big goal next year is to continue to serve more children than we did before. We know there are so many kids in the area that we serve that can benefit from us.”