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Happy Sunnyside

Over the holidays I tried to teach my three year-old about charity. My attempt to instill a sense of giving and kindness was in part, motivated by my dislike of excess. I was also unsure whether or not my son would be too young to understand the concept, but thought that I’d at least try. After many conversations explaining the concept of gratitude, giving and receiving, we struck deal. For every toy that he would receive for Christmas, he would give one, but ideally two, away to a child in need.

“To Sunnyside?” he asked. “The happy one?” referencing the movie Toy Story 3 in which the characters found themselves mistakenly donated to a local daycare. The ‘happy one’ was a lively, friendly place after the deposition of the ruling dictator toy – a teddy bear. Not sure where this would lead, I responded yes, because the emotions and actions in the movie was something he was familiar with. “Or to Room to Grow?” he then asked, knowing that I work for this organization, but not entirely clear about exactly what we do and why. “Both in a way,” I replied. “Room to Grow is similar to Sunnyside, but many of the children do not have as many toys as you do.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” one of his catch-phrases, “that makes me very sad.” And he then went through his toys, contemplating each and every one. After a while, we had a tidy sum of playthings: favorites that he wanted to share, toys for babies that he insisted his younger sister was ‘too old’ for, and others he barely touched. During the process, I both marveled at his ability to give and worried if I was expecting too much from a three-year old in discussing childhood poverty. 

My son couldn’t understand why some children didn’t have toys and I couldn’t come up with an understandable explanation for poverty. And so I tried to tell him that even if we don’t know why, we could try to help. At Room to Grow, our mission is to enrich the lives of babies born into poverty, by providing parents with the tools and resources to become confident caretakers while coping with financial struggles. Second Chance Toys supports our efforts by working with the community to collect toys to distribute to children in need. And as I stumbled over my words and attempted to clarify why some people have things and some do not – and how others could help, he said, “That’s okay mommy. My toys can go to good Sunnyside and make other children happy.” 

I’m still working on instilling charity and kindness in my children today. But as I think back on our afternoon sorting toys and my son’s idea of a ‘happy Sunnyside’ – this basic concept is something we can grasp and strive for together.

To learn more about Room to Grow, visit or contact Elaine at

Author: Elaine Chow, Director of Communications and Community Relations