| April 13, 2021 |
Gingerbread House Toys Donates $13,750 to Marcfirst
| How 500 Stuffed Animals turned into $13,750 |
How do you raise thousands of dollars to help kids in the Bloomington-Normal community? If you’re a local toy store, you make a custom stuffed animal and give him a t-shirt. Through the sale of 500 custom stuffed animals, modeled after their lovable shop dog Wink, Gingerbread House Toys raised $13,750 for The Gregg Chadwick Marcfirst Pediatric Therapy Center.
Kate Greene, the owner of Gingerbread House Toys sat down with Christy Kosharek, VP of Pediatric Therapy Services at Marcfirst, to talk about the partnership and present her with a check from the sale of all the “Winks”. Little did Kate know, Christy had a surprise for her as well. The swings they were sitting in were only possible because of this generous donation. In fact, the new sensory equipment added to the Motor Gym was a direct result of the Wink Alliance, and going forward they would be the official sponsor of the new sensory equipment in the Motor Gym, recognized on the wall for future families to see and know.
Marcfirst and Gingerbread House Toys have a history of coming together to help families combine learning and fun for kids of all abilities. Marcfirst helped Gingerbread House Toys understand the various needs of the community, and figure out what toys for learning and growth would be best to stock their shelves. And the store was constantly providing books, games and learning experiences for the families at Marcfirst. Now their partnership can continue in a new way, in a new space with Wink leading the charge.
“This climbing wall, and the zip line and the swings are what we were able to install in our new space thanks to the Wink Alliance and all the customers from Gingerbread House,” Christy shared. “Our therapists and also families in the community just really embraced Wink and the Wink Alliance and what it does for our community.”
Gingerbread House Toys approached Marcfirst in the fall of 2020 and asked if they would be the inaugural partner for the Wink Alliance. As it turns out Wink was already somewhat of an icon among the kids at Marcfirst, and once the stuffed “Winks” were available, some kids started to carry their Wink stuffy with them wherever they went. The custom-designed creation is the handiwork of Stuffed Animal Pros, a member of the Budsies family of brands, based in south Florida. At 8 inches tall, each "Wink" plush toy has a Gingerbread House Toys logo on his paw, and most importantly he wears a t-shirt with the Marcfirst logo on the front, displaying his support for his friends.
During the check presentation, real Wink came along, and surprised a few lucky kids who were able to pet and hug him and “show” him their Wink plush toys. One young boy who is non-verbal and loves Wink, used his tablet to tell Kate, thank you.
Will there be more Winks in the future? Definitely. Fall 2021 the Wink Alliance will pick a new partner, make a different version of Wink, and help more kids in the community, one soft hug at a time.
Newly founded in November 2020, and named for their famous shop dog Wink, the Wink Alliance is the official giving arm of Gingerbread House Toys. The Wink Alliance selects one local non-profit every holiday season to be added to the alliance as a friend and partner, who is supported through the sale of limited edition co-branded collectibles.
At the heart of this giving campaign are three main goals: Give to the community in ways that are tangible and massively impactful, elevate non-profits, and focus on the developmental needs of children: whether physical, emotional or intellectual. Local organizations that are interested in participating in the Wink Alliance in the future should fill out the contact form on the Wink Alliance webpage.
Gingerbread House Toys has been sparking imaginations and delighting children since 1972. Over the years it has become the go-to destination for families, caregivers, and children searching for fun, interesting, high-quality educational toys in Central Illinois. The store’s founder, Tami Jarecki, believed in the power of play to stimulate children’s minds. The shop grew and evolved, moving from her home into an original Victorian gingerbread-style house on Hannah Street.
In 2012, the store changed hands and was purchased by three sisters from Bloomington who had been raised on toys from the original store. Kate, Nikki, and Beki Greene had always loved coming into this magical space as children and were excited for the opportunity to not only continue the traditions of before, but also to offer exciting and innovative products, services, and events. In 2017, the sisters moved into the Foundry shopping district on Washington Street, nestled near Bloomington Cycle and Fitness, Coffee Hound 3, and Green Top Grocery.
At the core of Gingerbread House Toys is the belief that when children play, they’re doing more than having fun, they’re learning and growing, which is why fun toys with an educational angle are abundantly available in their store. On their website, you can learn more about the purpose of play as a method to improve creative and cognitive abilities, gross and fine motor skills, emotional, language, and social skills, as well as improve spatial reasoning.
Contact Information for Gingerbread House Toys and the Wink Alliance
Gingerbread House Toys | Marketing & Advertising
915 E Washington St #3 | Bloomington, IL 61701
jess at joshuaonenine dot media
Marcfirst was established by families in 1955 to address the need for education for people with developmental disabilities. In the last 65 years, Marcfirst has been at the forefront of supporting individuals through integration into our Bloomington-Normal community. Marcfirst’s mission is to support people with developmental disabilities and their families in McLean County with opportunities to reach their full potential through a lifetime of meaningful services. Marcfirst envisions a community that encourages and accepts all people. Marcfirst operates an over $6 million annual budget supporting over 800 children and adults with developmental disabilities.
Marcfirst provides a number of programs to support individuals through all stages of life. Marcfirst Pediatric Therapy meets the needs of children with developmental disabilities or delays from birth to age 14. The High School Transition Program creates a bridge between school life and future adult services. Marcfirst’s Supported Employment Program creates opportunities for successful community employment. The Residential and Day Programs offer a supportive environment, providing the skills needed to gain more independence and enhance quality of life.
Contact information for Marcfirst
Marcfirst | VP Development & Marketing
1606 Hunt Drive | Normal, IL 61761
LeniKuntz at marcfirst dot org
309-451-8888, ext. 258