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Kids Want a Chance to Change the World — We Have Proof!

My 10-year old son volunteering at a community where Club Penguin supports community development with Free The Children.

My 10-year old son volunteering at a community that Club Penguin supports through Free The Children in Nicaragua.

Sometimes our perception as adults is that kids just care about themselves.  For example, most parents will agree that going into a store —ANY store — with your child is a continuous exercise in the art of saying “no!” (which may or may not end in tears on the part of your child, or anger on the part of the parent). Or the “I want”s on the present wish list may be pages long, or the chores may be undone because your child is too busy playing.  As a parent of a  10-year-old, I know, I’ve been there!

Apart from my 24/7 job of Mom, I work for Disney’s Club Penguin.  Club Penguin is an ad-free, virtual world where kids can play games, have fun, and interact with other kids around the globe.  Players collect coins when they play games and these coins may be used to buy stuff for their penguin avatar — like clothes or items to decorate their igloo. In my role, I oversee our Corporate Citizenship which is all about encouraging our employees to make a difference. We also donate a portion of our net profit to charitable projects around the world. But the best part is helping our team to engage kids in giving back.

Seven years ago we took a risk at Club Penguin.  We started it based on the premise that kids did care about more than just themselves.  We thought that if given a chance, kids would want to help make a difference in their global community.  We believed this because we saw it everyday in the way kids interacted in our online world.  We were already donating to charities globally that helped kids and we wanted to connect our players to this because without them we wouldn’t be able to do it.

So, we put up a million dollars from our net profit for donations to charity and our team came up with an idea called Coins For Change which would enable our players to give away their virtual coins to help us decide where that one million dollar donation would go.  Then, we crossed our fingers.  We believed kids cared but would they actually give up their hard-earned coins? That was December 2007 and during that inaugural event, our players globally came together donating over 2 billion of their virtual coins!  We were amazed!

Since that time, we’ve been able to donate over 10 million dollars to help kids, families & endangered animals in over 40 countries.  Reel forward to today and we’re in the middle of our 7th Annual Coins For Change that runs through January 1st.  For us, it’s exhilarating to witness how the program continues to inspire and empower kids from around the world.  They write to us excitedly about participating and tell us how they’ve saved up their virtual coins all year just to contribute. We receive thousands of messages from our players every week — BessyBee represents the sentiments of the kids’ best writing, “… I love how we are getting a chance to make a difference and give back instead of just getting presents for ourselves! It’s an amazing feeling to see what we all can accomplish when we work (play) together! Thank you, Club Penguin, for giving us this opportunity to give something special this year!”

Right now players are working together to unlock 10 charitable projects through the donation of their virtual coins.  From helping families around the world gain access to clean water, to protecting the habitat of endangered animals like the lion, kids are excited to participate and are more engaged than ever.  Already, within 5 days of launch, kids have donated over 15 billion of their virtual coins (last year they donated 13.7 billion coins for some perspective)!  Additionally, we’ve added a real-world action for kids to take in their community by pledging to donate a toy to a child in need in their community.

Why do we do this?  We do it because we know kids are hungry to help.  Often times they just haven’t been given the chance or challenge to do so.  Our ultimate goal with programs like Coins For Change is to give kids the chance and challenge to take action.  We hope this enables kids to realize that their actions count.  A charity we support, Free The Children (co-founded by 12-year old Craig Kielburger 18 years ago) puts it best saying, “kids can be leaders today in making a difference!”  Through Coins For Change we know we have proof!

I’d love to hear from you, how do you engage your kids around making a difference?  How can schools, parents and companies give kids a voice in making a difference?

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