TO any child a toybox is a treasure chest – but could their cast offs be worth £1 million?
Barnardo’s children's charity has teamed up with Argos to set up a toy exchange, aiming to raise a million pounds to help underprivileged youngsters in the UK.
The retailer asked hundreds of parents around the UK what happens to toys when they are outgrown.
In Wales, more than 30 per cent of those who took part admitted they left once-beloved toys to gather dust in the loft, while 25 per cent banished their toys to the bottom of a wardrobe or a cupboard. That said, at least 70 per cent donated at least some of their toys to charity, which bodes well for the campaign.
The funds raised support efforts like Wrexham’s Compass Project, which runs the Housing Advice and Bond Guarantee Scheme, which allows young people aged 16 to 25 to enter privately rented accommodation.
Another of the Compass initiatives is the Options Project, which offers opportunities for young people who are not in education or training.
Barnardo’s works with people all over North Wales, including people like Sarah Douce, a young woman from Holywell, who became involved with Flintshire Young Carers when she was in her mid-teens.
For years Sarah has cared for her mother who has restricted physical mobility, sight and hearing problems.
Sarah’s duties at home take up to 20 hours a week – more than many teens will work during a part time job.
As a young carer, she is obviously unpaid, but despite the demand on her time she recently started a university course in engineering, thanks to support from Barnardo’s.
She said: “Getting in touch with Barnardo’s changed everything for me. I had no idea that there were other children doing the same type of thing as me. “There were even people in the same class as me in school yet none of us were mentioning it or discussing it.
“Meeting other young carers at Barnardo’s opened my eyes and I was able to have courage to discuss my feelings for the first time and develop confidence in my special role.”
Through the charity Sarah could meet other youngsters and take part in activities which took her away from her caring role.
She also received support from a project worker and help applying for grants to support her university work. She said: “Barnardo’s creates a secure environment where young carers can exchange views and take part in activities. We get involved in discussions on what we can do to make things better for young carers.”
She advised other young carers to speak out, saying: “Don’t be enclosed in yourself – discuss your issues.
“Get teachers or whoever to listen to you and remember there are others like you.”
It might seem strange that a cuddly toy or train set from your past could help make a future for a young person in Flintshire or Wrexham, but the campaign, fronted this year by TV’s Denise Van Outen, works.
Gerard Cousins, Barnardo’s director of retail and trading, said: “After the success of last year’s toy exchange, we are really excited about the potential that this year’s campaign.
"The initiative works well for us but its beauty lies in the fact that the concept is so simple. All customers have to do to help the most disadvantaged children in society is donate their pre-loved toys.”
The toy exchange at Argos is open to anyone who brings in a donation. You simply have to round up your unwanted toys, donate them to Argos or Barnardo’s in store and you will receive a £5 Argos voucher redeemable when you spend £35 or more on toys at Argos.
You can donate the unwanted toys in store until November 26.
There are Argos stores in Chester, Mold and Wrexham centres and Bernardo’s outlets in Mold, Chester, Ruabon and Llangollen.