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Holiday tradition returns to Eastfield Mall

Date: 12/1/2009

By Natasha Clark


SPRINGFIELD -- Hasbro is known internationally for family entertainment. Locally they are one of the area's largest employers, and for the last 25 years, their partnership with the United Way, the Salvation Army and Rachel's Table has helped put food and close to one million toys in the homes of Springfield families.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of that partnership, Hasbro Children's Giving Tree. On Nov. 24, students from Mary Lynch and Warner Elementary, along with the Montessori School of West Springfield, Green Meadows Elementary of Hampden and East Longmeadow High School's chorale group gathered at Eastfield Mall to celebrate the annual event. The mall has been hosting the event for the last nine years. Candy Land characters, Mr. Potato Head and Captain America were on hand for the celebration.

"All of us really want to thank you," George Burtch, vice president of global integration marketing at Hasbro, said to students. "You are what makes an event like this special."

Maj. Thomas Perks, of the Salvation Army of Springfield, recalled to students about his joys of imitating Captain America when he was five years old. He said later in life he wondered, "How can I use my other strengths to do things?"

"I challenge you to see what great things you can do in your house, school and at your place of worship," Perks told the crowd.

United Ways new President and CEO Dora Robinson said the organization was "pleased to be in a partnership with someone who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk." She later told Reminder Publications that the event was wonderful. "I think this is a great example of what we can do collectively to bring toys to our children. One organization can't do it. It has to be collectively. We're just thrilled."

After the chorale group's second round of carols, students were able to hang up their Acts of Kindness slips on Hasbro's Christmas Tree. Through the program, Hasbro donates toys and games during the holidays to children in need in the Springfield area while encouraging community members to perform acts of kindness and donate food items to the program. There is a bin near the tree where food donations can be dropped. The food items collected will be distributed through Rachel's Table and the toys will be distributed through the United Way and The Salvation Army.

Children write the Acts of Kindness they've done during the holiday season on a slip of paper and they are hung on the tree. They will be on display at Eastfield Mall until Dec. 17.

The program was initiated in 1984 after Hasbro asked the community, including all schools, to create handmade ornaments. They were hung on a tree in the local mall and in turn, Hasbro donated a toy or game. In 2001, Hasbro asked the community to replace the homemade ornaments with a non-perishable food item. Last year Hasbro gave away 49,000 toys and games.

The program typically runs through the second and third week of December.