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Toy Tales

Part of the heart of our mission of SCT is to help enrich the lives of children in need by providing the opportunity to play, so in order to broaden our reach in order to serve more kids, this year Second Chance Toys joined forces with the NYC chapter of Makers Making Change (MMC) to aid in launching their new event: Adaptive Toy Hackathons. 

Loreto Dumitrescu, a member of MMC in NYC, co-founder of Zero Day Camp in Brooklyn, and our partner in planning, describes that “Makers Making Change aims to connect makers, persons with disabilities, and disability professionals to break down access barriers to assistive technologies. Toy adapting is a way of modifying commercially available toys in a way that children with motor disabilities may activate them. Even the simplest toys are inaccessible for children with physical disabilities. These children often use custom switches to engage with devices such as tablets, communication systems, and environmental controls. By re-wiring and adding an auxiliary jack to the toy, children can then plug in their switch and play with toys they may not be able to otherwise.”

After connecting with Loreto and learning about the program we were sure that we wanted to join together and provide all gently-used toys! Since not all toys are adaptable, however, we culled reactive items that either move or dance, make noises and play music, or light up and flash to that additional connection and switches could be added. This way another group of kids can receive useful, appropriate toys, meanwhile, pounds of plastic avoids the landfill!

On December 12th, 2021 the NYC chapter of Makers Making Change ran its first ever adapted toy hackathon at MakerspaceNYC in Brooklyn, NY. Together Makers Making Chance and Second Chance Toys were able to collect and adapt 15 toys and distribute them to local organizations throughout the city. 

Volunteers from various organizations including The Henry Viscardi School, Adapt Community Network, High Technology High School, Zero Day Camp, as well as local makers and tinkerers lent a hand in the work, giving the toys an electronic makeover and a second chance! We all hope to grow this event and continue to host hackathons in the future; sharing the know-how of toy adapting to help engage all children in the magic of play.

Samantha Fallon has autism and suffers from severe anxiety. This holiday season, she

received a gently used American Girl Doll with accessories from a collection conducted
by Laura and Allie Pullaro in New York.

Sam's mom, Doris, was ecstatic to receive this much-needed gift for her daughter, not
only in the spirit of the holidays, but because this doll is helping Samantha in so many

As Doris explained, "Sam really likes the doll because she gets to role play with me or
grandma and it helps with her auditory skills."

Her mother added that the doll gives her the opportunity to continue doing some of
the things she is missing out on with remote learning for school. She gets to dress and
undress the doll. That is practice for both visually identifying clothing and how to put
them on her doll, which reinforces what she already knows with dressing herself. It also
helps her practice her sensory and motor skills by brushing the dolls hair.

Sami likes to hold her doll and sleeps with it. Her mom says it provides positive and
emotional support for her, in particular because of her severe anxiety. It also helps with her fears of Covid.

Sami has named the doll McKenna and is looking forward to getting more clothes for her so she can continue changing the outfits.

Second Chance Toys is thrilled to have provided this amazing gift of comfort and learning for the holidays.




A family counselor from the New York based Coalition on Adoptable Children knew that her client was worried that her daughter was not yet walking. So when her client was able to move to an apartment in which she and her daughters no longer had to share a bedroom, their family counselor brought over a few Second Chance Toys as a housewarming gift. One of the toys was an Activity Walker. The one year old immediately gravitated towards that particular toy when the family counselor arrived. The activities on the walker drew her in and she remained playing with it throughout the visit.  About a week later, the family counselor received a phone call from her client who had some exciting news that she wanted to share – with assistance from the walker toy, the one year old had taken her first steps!

We should never underestimate the power and importance of toys and play.

It was not until a delivery of Second Chance Toys to the Brownsville section of Brooklyn this past holiday, that the children at Ascend Charter School had toys for recess. As if the new squeals of joy at recess were not enough, the team of social workers were able to put some of the toys from Second Chance Toys to use to help the students work through behavioral issues. "Toys are wonderful tools that allow us to help our children without them realizing it," commented Amanda Michel, M.S.Ed. "While it appears to the children that we are simply playing”, she continued, “we are actually building conflict resolution, problem solving, and pro-social skills." 

Among the many toys donated, the school social workers and counselors are now utilizing a dollhouse in counseling sessions in order to role play problems that arise in the classroom. They use a Monopoly Junior game and other toys to help develop good sportsmanship skills, including taking turns and using kind words with peers. The Legos and action figures are great to use with the students who struggle with following directions, and a Light Brite toy is perfect for helping the children improve their fine motor skills. To top it all off, the donated foosball table will be used to encourage parent-child interaction in a school setting for family game nights!

"Bottom line,” added Allison McKenna, LMSW, “The toys play a key role in providing our students with a developmentally appropriate way to learn about themselves and the world around them. These toys are invaluable!"


In 2013 Danaya Dickson gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Dakoda. Like every mom, she wanted the best for her child, but it was difficult for her to make ends meet. So when Christmas rolled around that year, and for the next 2 years after that, Danaya was not able to provide her daughter with any gifts that were directly from her. Fortunately her extended family provided some gifts of their own.

This past Christmas was happily different! This year, Ms. Dickson was able to pick out several good-as-new plastic toys that were donated from Second Chance Toys to Babyland Family Services. Mr. Richard Whitten, director of Babyland Family Services, stated, “We had so many people from the community asking us for toys this year. If it were not for Second Chance Toys, we would have been in a pinch."

Among the toys Ms. Dickson selected for Dakoda, were a plastic alligator piano, a Lego block set, and a tea set. She is excited to use all of the toys to play and interact with her daughter. Danaya mentioned that she wants to put numbers and the letters of the alphabet on the Lego blocks, to help begin teaching her young child.

After the toys were picked out, they were wrapped up, and for the first time, Danaya Dickson was able to proudly put her own name on these precious gifts for her daughter. This was a happy holilday indeed!

In our last Toy Tales story we hear again from Elva Guevara, the Executive Director of United Yes We Can- Unidos Si Se Puede.

This Toy Tale is about a young girl named Luz, a special needs child, who received a musical princess table from Second Chance Toys. Upon receiving the toy, Luz had tears running down her face and said that it was the “biggest and prettiest gift” she ever received. This was a very special moment for her that day, and the table continues to have special meaning. Several weeks later, her mother, Onesima, expressed her own joy to me personally. When Luz has an anxiety attack, her mom discovered that her daughter starts to calm down when seated at her princess table and she begins to play. This toy has truly been a blessing for them both.

Toys are more important than meets the eye. We are so grateful for Second Chance Toys and look forward to their generosity this holiday season as well.


In the last two Toy Tales stories we hear directly from Elva Guevara, the Executive Director of United Yes We Can- Unidos Si Se Puede. Guevara's organization offers basic services and education to low income families in East Harlem, NY. Each recipient organization that Second Chance Toys works with uses donated toys in a variety of ways, including keeping them on-site or sending toys home with the children. Below is a heart-warming story of one child who was so taken with a toy, there was no choice but to send it home with her-- she literally would not let it go!

The plastic carriage that Amy is clinging to in this photo meant so much to her. In fact, she would not let go of it during the entire party in which we gave out all of the hundreds of toys donated by Second Chance Toys. She wanted this more than anything and was not quite sure it could still be hers if she let go. Many of our families in East Harlem, NY struggle to pay for the basics. A single toy can be very special to those that do not have any of their own. Finally, when it was time for Amy to leave, her mom could not get her to take her hands off the carriage to put on her coat. Everyone had a good laugh watching her mom pick her up as she clung tightly to the carriage, then wrapped her coat around her, in order to get her home!! -Elva Guevara, the Executive Director of United Yes We Can- Unidos Si Se Puede

Part two in a new series from Second Chance Toys on the impact that donated toys have on the children who recieve them

Welcome our series of articles and shared stories that follow what happens to your toys after you drop them off. In each story, we'll share how a toy donation has directly and positively impacted the life of a child. We share these just as our holiday toy donations begin, with the hope that these stories provide some inspiration for giving and also a greater appreciation for the importance of toys.

As Jinnea turned the key and pushed the door open, she could still smell the new paint on the wall. It made her smile and remember just how far she had come. Her new apartment was in the same neighborhood she grew up in, yet it was worlds apart from the poverty she had once lived in. It was also a five minute walk from the Head Start Homeless Shelter she and her two sons once called home. 

Like her two boys, Zyon and Amari, Jinnea had grown up in a broken home herself. But she was lucky enough to have two very loving grandparents who helped her get off the welfare system and find a job. She started in a low paying entry level position and was quickly promoted to administrative assistant working with adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.  Jinnea is now working towards a degree in human services with a concentration in counseling – and she plans to graduate in May. She is so proud to have pulled herself up by her bootstraps to raise her boys in a better environment.

Gateway Community Head Start nurtured Jinnea’s kids while she was getting her feet on the ground. Zyon and Amari, went through the education and enrichment programs for preschoolers – and Jinnea is certain it gave the boys the positive start they needed -especially for her youngest, who is developmentally delayed. Jinnea can remember one particular breakthrough day for Armari. It was the day Second Chance Toys delivered gently used plastic toys to the children at Head Start; Amari received a plastic train from SCT. And through various play exercises with his new train, Amari’s teacher was able to pull him out of his shell and help him advance his speech and socialization. Jinnea and his educators still marvel at the fact that a plastic train held the key to unlock her son’s development. Helping kids and the environment… one toy at a time.

Part one in a new series from Second Chance Toys on the impact that donated toys have on the children who recieve them

Welcome to a new series of articles and shared stories that follow what happens to your toys after you drop them off. In each story, we'll share how a toy donation has directly and positively impacted the life of a child. We share these just as our holiday toy donations begin, with the hope that these stories provide some inspiration for giving and also a greater appreciation for the importance of toys.

Anthony and his family had a holiday season they will never forget. It had been a year of great lows. First the family was forced to relocate to a more affordable apartment. Then after a serious health threat landed Anthony’s father in the hospital, things became desperate. The family – which includes Anthony, his parents and his eight siblings -- were forced to move into a transitional living center located in Newark, NJ. The New Community Harmony House, a shelter that provides families like Anthony’s with the support they need, became their new home.

The New Harmony House offered new hope for the family – and also great support in the areas of job and education assistance, and food and clothing. But for Anthony, one of the most cherished gifts this transitional housing facility gave him was hope for the future – through the eyes of a plastic dinosaur.

It happened one afternoon when Second Chance Toys paid Anthony and the other kids at Harmony a visit several days before Christmas. Anthony and his brothers and sisters expected nothing for the holidays. They knew their parents’ situation. But that afternoon, they were pleasantly surprised to receive good-as-new plastic toys, with small tags bearing a note from the previous owner wishing them well. Anthony was given a dinosaur, a yellow helicopter, and two big trucks, but it’s the toy dinosaur that impacted him most. It made him curious about the study of dinosaurs, which blossomed into a general interest in the sciences, which made Anthony decide that he himself wanted to be a scientist when he grew up. And once he became famous for his discoveries, he was going to buy his family a new house they could all live in together. His mother believes the toy not only had a special meaning for her son but it helped him in his social and educational development. For Anthony that dinosaur has given him inspiration and hope. 

Recycled love and a second chance. It’s magic.