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Toys“R”Us, U.S. Launches Fundraising Campaign to Help Autism Speaks Solve the Autism Puzzle

WAYNE, N.J. (February 25, 2010) – Toys“R”Us, U.S. today announced that its fundraising campaign to benefit Autism Speaks will begin Sunday, February 28 and continue through Friday, April 30. Throughout the campaign, monetary donations will be collected at all Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us stores and online at Toysrus.com/AutismSpeaks. Autism Speaks is the nation's leading organization dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

“Autism impacts countless families, including those of our customers and employees,” said Jerry Storch, Chairman and CEO, Toys“R”Us, Inc. “As a company that loves kids, we are proud to lend our support once again to help Autism Speaks find the missing pieces of the autism puzzle by raising money and awareness for this disorder.”

Skill-Building Toys and Safe Play Tips
As part of this philanthropic initiative, Toys“R”Us has created several programs to help parents and caregivers of children with autism. The company collaborated with Autism Speaks and the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making play accessible for children with disabilities, to identify toys that can help little ones with autism develop language, creativity and social skills, among others, while playing alongside siblings and friends. The “Ten Toys That Speak To Autism,” a special subset of the annual Toys“R”Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids,provides toy suggestions specifically for families and friends of children with autism.

Research shows that children with cognitive, emotional or social limitations, including those with autism, are more prone to accidental injuries. With guidance from leading safety organizations and Autism Speaks, the Safe Play Tips are relevant for children with autism. These tips include:

  • Avoid Trigger Toys: Opt for toys that have volume control for children who are adversely affected by loud noises.
  • Read Labels for Ability: Choose toys that correspond with a child's learning level rather than merely matching a toy with his/her actual age.
  • Never Leave a Child Unsupervised: It is especially critical that a child with special needs is properly supervised by an adult or trusted caregiver at all times.

“The “R”Us family and its customers have continually opened their hearts to support Autism Speaks in its mission to advocate for the nearly 750,000 children on the autism spectrum in this country,” said Mark Roithmayr, President of Autism Speaks. “Toys“R”Us, Inc. is such a valued partner, and we are excited about the fundraising potential of this year's program.”

Comprehensive information about the 2010 campaign is available on the company's dedicated website, Toysrus.com/AutismSpeaks. The “Ten Toys That Speak To Autism” and a full list of Safe Play Tips can be found here, as well as a blog titled “Speaking About Autism,” which offers updates and information throughout the nine-week fundraising effort. The website, as well as campaign signage in Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us stores, features the “Faces of Autism,” a striking series of portraits featuring children with autism taken by photographer Thomas Balsamo.

Walking the Walk for Autism Speaks
In addition to the fundraising campaign, Toys“R”Us is kicking off its national sponsorship of Walk Now for Autism Speaks, a year-long series of more than 80 walk events in communities throughout North America. Teams of regional employees will walk alongside the company's iconic mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe and individuals with autism, their families and friends to raise money and awareness.

All funds raised in Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us stores, online and through the Walk Now for Autism Speaks events will go directly to Autism Speaks to support research and advocacy efforts. Earlier this month, the Toys“R”Us Children's Fund kicked off the 2010 campaign by providing a $400,000 grant to Autism Speaks. Customers who donate $10 or more to Autism Speaks at any Toys“R”Us or Babies“R”Us store in the U.S. will receive a colorful floral-themed reusable shopping bag designed by a talented artist with autism, James Hogarth, while supplies last.

Since the partnership launched in 2007, Toys“R”Us, Inc., the Toys“R”Us Children's Fund and customer contributions have combined to provide Autism Speaks with more than $5.5 million. Last year's in-store and online fundraising campaign raised more than $1.9 million for Autism Speaks. This year, for the first time, Toys“R”Us, Canada will lend its support to the cause by collecting donations in its nearly 70 stores and online at Toysrus.ca.

About Autism
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in 1 in 110 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism increased 57 percent from 2002 to 2006. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

About Toys“R”Us, Inc.
Toys“R”Us, Inc. is the world's leading dedicated toy and baby products retailer, offering a differentiated shopping experience through its family of brands. It currently sells merchandise in more than 1,550 stores, including 849 Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us stores in the United States, and more than 700 international stores in 33 countries, consisting of both licensed and franchised stores. In addition, it owns and operates the legendary FAO Schwarz brand and sells extraordinary toys in the brand's flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. With its strong portfolio of e-commerce sites including Toysrus.com, Babiesrus.com, eToys.com, FAO.com and babyuniverse.com, it provides shoppers with an unparalleled online selection of distinctive toy and baby products. Headquartered in Wayne, N.J., Toys“R”Us, Inc. employs approximately 70,000 associates worldwide. The company is committed to serving its communities as a caring and reputable neighbor through programs dedicated to keeping kids safe and helping them in times of need.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception only five short years ago, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $131 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families through 2014. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks also supports the Autism Treatment Network, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and an award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council which has received over $200 million in donated media. Autism Speaks' family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a community grant program and much more. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government's response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.

About the Co-Founders
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and served as vice chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the boards of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, RAND Corporation and the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Wright has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, mostly directed toward helping children. She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and is also Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards including the CHILD Magazine Children's Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women's Division In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world for their commitment to global autism advocacy.