The Ohr Meir Foundation surprises cancer-struck kids by creating pop up toy store during annual Disney trip, replacing the now defunct Toys-R-Us store at Mall at Millennia, Florida. Major toy companies unite to donate toys, while entire staff of original store volunteers to help
All Former Toys-R-Us Staff and Major Toy Brands Unite, Keeping the Magic Alive
Kids with Cancer Visit ‘Magical’ Pop-up Toy Store
Created by Ohr Meir Foundation
Park Inn Hotel in Kissimmee, Florida, November 26th 2018
Children laughing, pushing and pulling dark green shopping-carts, shelves stacked high with brand-name toys, staff in matching blue tees…
But this is not Toys-R-Us.
A new logo shows across those blue uniforms, and the almost comically-long printed receipts as giggling children grab their dream toys; ‘Magical Toy Store’.
If the children could see past 3,000+ brand-new toys, all donated by their manufacturers, on specially-erected gondola shelving, they may have noticed they were in a hotel.
Ari & Idy Friedman established the Ohr Meir Foundation in 1994, in memory of their son Meir’s loss to leukemia, aged 10. In previous years they have made a tradition of the annual “Orlando Trip”, a crazy, 4 day fun-filled extravaganza for 4 to 21 year olds suffering from cancer.
A popular highlight was a (surprise) visit to the Millennia branch of Toys-R-Us, where the children were given a budget to grab whatever toys they wanted. However this year, all the Toys-R-Us stores were closed and shuttered.
“The toy-store experience was part of this dream-making magic, part of this energy. They had these kids, some in-between chemo treatments, literally dancing in the aisles. How to reproduce that? We couldn’t exactly take these sick kids to Amazon.com” said Meir’s older brother, Steven Friedman, now 36. “The toy store experience is vital to their memories, to give these kids their childhood back.”
“Dreams Happen” – The Magical Toy Store is created
The foundations motto is “Dreams happen“. It is famous for magical mind blowing surprises for children, and refused to give up. With just weeks to go before this year’s trip, they started planning another crazy magical event.
“What if we could somehow re-open the store, just for one day…and make it bigger and better than any Toys R Us visit could ever be?! And to get a bunch of popular toy brands on board so that these kids have an overwhelming amount of toys. And when we do something on this trip for these amazing kids- we do it in a top notch over the top way so that the children are just blown away. Our goal with this toy store was no different.” said Friedman. The Ohr Meir Foundation decided to try re-creating that magical moment with a “pop-up” store inside the hotel.
On Monday the 26th of November 46 children with cancer got to experience the most amazing toy store event ever, just half a mile from the gates of Disney World. The store was called, appropriately, the ‘Magical Toy Store’. Ohr Meir took the ballroom of their hotel and transformed it – complete with retail gondola shelving, checkout counters, specially-equipped laptops as cash registers, shopping carts, and “employees”.
The entire staff of the old Toys R Us store in Orlando Florida, including recent manager Victor Perez and previous manager John Locke, all volunteered to take an off-day from their new employment to serve the children. They were the store’s “employees” handling the announcements and helping to check the children out after they completed their shopping.
A new toy store needs toys – and toys it had – thousands of them. The toys were displayed in over 800 feet of shelving in a magnificent toy store display. All the toys were donated by the toy manufacturers who were eager to participate in this magical event.
The children burst through the doors with incredible energy and excitement as they grabbed toys off the shelves and filled their carts as high as the sky.
Each child went home with a wagon full of toys. The children’s checkout receipt, with the magical toy store logo printed on top- had the value of all the toys they picked, followed by – “you pay $0”. One child even ripped up her receipt with a big smile on her face.