Today Show Toy Drive Breaks Records with $42 Million Worth of Donations

The Today Show Toy Drive began in 1994 as a way for viewers to give holiday toys and gifts to impoverished American children and teens. The project started small, collecting just over 1,000 gifts from viewers and distributing them to nearly 1,000 children in five homeless shelters.

In 2012, the Toy Drive accepted a record-breaking $42 million worth of in-kind donations, putting smiles on the faces of nearly 5 million children through 200 family non-profits in all 50 states and on military bases abroad. In the 19 years since its launch, the Today Show Toy Drive has received a total of $332 million in donations from loyal and generous Today Show viewers.

More than 90 percent of the families reached by the Toy Drive are struggling to survive. Children under the age of 18 are most impacted by poverty, and Today is dedicated to reaching deeply into communities to bring them holiday cheer and help improve their lives.

The program provides toys, books, clothing and other essentials to millions of needy children and teenagers nationwide. The toys are distributed through shelters, charities, hospitals and more - many of which give the gifts to parents and caregivers so that their children can receive gifts from people they love. The Toy Drive has also expanded to include gifts that children can give their loved ones, so that they might experience the joy and empowerment of giving.

Each day from Thanksgiving to Christmas, a Celebrity Elf collects gifts on the plaza. Elves have included Paul Rudd, George Clooney, Claire Danes, The Cast of Downton Abbey, Tom Hanks, Robert DeNiro and many more.

The Today Show Toy Drive is a project of the Today Show Charitable Foundation, Inc. In 2010, it was awarded theBoys & Girls Clubs of America Foundation Philanthropy Award and in 2008, it was honored with aPresident's Volunteer Service Award.

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