Owen Schneider, Toy-Raiser
When Owen Schneider turned seven, he gave away all of his birthday presents. The idea came to him when talking with his parents about his upcoming seventh birthday party—he decided if he had to choose between an expensive gift from his parents
and a party, he would choose celebrating with his friends. “You can give my presents away,” he told them.
So, Owen and his mom talked about giving to others and why it was a great thing to do. “We talked about the fact that I have a lot of toys and other kids don’t,” says Owen, now 10 years old. “I decided that my birthday, which is before Christmas, could be a good time to take my gifts and give them to kids who don’t have a lot.”
So, Owen donated all of his birthday gifts to Toys for Tots–his charity of choice. In the year leading up to his eighth birthday, Owen and his family shopped the toy clearance aisle at every opportunity and partnered with a Wal-Mart that was discarding clearance toys. When his birthday month came around (December) that year, Owen and his parents also planned a big birthday party in partnership with the local Chick-Fil-A. Forty kids, the Marines, and the local news stations showed up—and Owen collected around 50 more gifts for Toys for Tots. In spring 2009, Owen was awarded first prize in the Kids With Heart contest in Kansas City, Missouri.
Why does Owen do it? “It makes me feel good,” he says. “I think of the kids who don’t have toys and when I get a present, I think, ‘Wow, those kids don’t get this experience.’ I like thinking about what those kids might feel like when they open up a special gift on Christmas day.”
Since starting his Toys for Tots gift-raising in 2007, Owen has donated nearly 2,000 toys with the help of his community and friends. When his family moved to Loveland, Colorado, in 2009, Owen continued his charity work there, hosting his ninth birthday at another Chick-Fil-A. In March 2011, Owen earned the 9Kids Who Care Award from Colorado’s 9News KUSA-TV.
December 2, 2011 will mark Owen’s eleventh birthday and his fifth year of hosting a toy drive in lieu of a typical birthday party. “I started doing this just with friends, then with my school, and now I get on the radio and talk to the news stations to promote it,” says Owen. “This year will hopefully be the best one yet! I’m excited to get as many gifts as possible for these kids.”
Owen’s Toys for Tots party is December 1, 2011 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Loveland, Colorado, Chick-Fil-A. Learn more about Toys for Tots at www.toysfortots.org.