I was in Washington D.C. when the United States really started to take COVID-19 seriously. At the time, I was a brand representative for a high end sunglass company, and I was just visiting store locations as if nothing were different. At that point, I hadn’t read much about the pandemic that was sweeping the world. My biggest worry at the time was how painfully dry the cheap hand sanitizer I was using was making my skin.
When I returned home the next day, I was set to work a pretty typical weekend at the second largest mall in the United States. However, when I got there, the store I was going to be working at was closed for the day. It was only minutes later that the decision was made to close the mall.
That was the day everything truly changed for me. I was notified that I would be working from home for the foreseeable future. My wife, a school teacher, had been told that they would be teaching remotely indefinitely. The kids’ preschool shut down.
For the first month, we did our best to work remotely while providing care for our children. We’d take turns working “in the trenches” while the other parent sequestered themselves in the locked serenity of our spare bedroom.
A month later, I was furloughed indefinitely. A few months later, that furlough turned into a permanent layoff from a job I had absolutely loved. I was absolutely devastated. I found myself falling deeper into depression. Without work to distract me, I allowed myself to be overcome with that feeling of loss, outrage at American politics, racial injustice and the overwhelming claustrophobia of being constantly pulled at by tiny humans. It was the lowest that I have ever felt in my life. In just a few short months, I lost my sense of purpose. In just a few short months, I allowed myself to become disillusioned by the world. In a few short months, my world was flipped upside down, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to find my way back into the light.
The reason why I chose to kick off this year’s Little Wheels Big Hearts campaign by telling you this is because my story is not all that different that those all around the world. Covid-19 has affected us all in one way or another. I was lucky. The loss of my job and the fear, anxiety and depression that followed was related to my own existential crisis of who I was and what my next steps would be. Because of the security of my wife’s job and safety nets we had in place, I never worried that we might lose our home. I never worried that my kids would never have enough to eat. There are many out there who cannot say the same.
For a lot of those families, this is going to be a very difficult holiday season. Aside from just the financial strains that job loss can put on a holiday, due to the pandemic, many children will see their holiday traditions go by the wayside this year as families do their best to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
This is a time when Little Wheels Big Hearts is needed the most.
For those unfamiliar with what we do, Little Wheels Big Hearts is a charitable initiative that started in 2018. The idea was that through a multitude of kind and giving people donating a series of small things, we could do something great. For us, this manifested itself in the donation of Hot Wheels, Matchbox and other toy vehicles to be distributed through the Toys for Tots program. Our initial year we sought to donate 2,000 toy cars to Toys for Tots, but thanks to an overwhelming response from some amazing people around the globe, we were able to donate over 6,500 cars in our first year. Last year, we grew to just under 10,000 toy vehicles donated to underprivileged children.
We chose toy vehicles because these are a great way for both boys and girls of all ages and backgrounds to have fun and use their imagination to interact with the world around them. The typical cost of a single Matchbox or Hot Wheels car comes in at right around $1, so it allows people to participate at whatever level of financial commitment that can afford to participate. We chose to ultimately make our final overall donation to the Toys for Tots foundation as they have been a pillar of giving in the United States for 73 years and counting.
There are three main ways that you can get involved in the Little Wheels Big Hearts charitable initiative:
The first is through our Amazon Wishlist. We have curated our list to include a variety of toy vehicle choices to include as many price points, age groups and target audiences as possible. Items purchased off of our list are sent directly to a member of the Little Wheels Big Hearts Council for processing and donation. I have included a link to the wish list below.
The second is through a direct monetary donation to our GoFundMe campaign. We use these funds to take advantage of some of the aggressive toy pricing in the weeks leading up to the holiday season. This allows us to maximize the number vehicles we are able to donate. Our campaign can be found at:
The third is by simply purchasing cars locally and donating them to one of the thousands of Toys for Tots drop off boxes located at businesses and organizations all throughout the United States. Simply snap a picture of your donation (or just let us know how many vehicles you’re donating) and post it to Twitter with the hashtag #LittleWheelsBigHearts. Don’t use Twitter? Feel free to email me at TwinzerDad@gmail.com.
2020 has been a rough year for so many of us. Little Wheels Big Hearts provides a way to not only help make this year a little bit better for others, but for ourselves as well. The greatest way that I’ve ever found to bring hope to ourselves for a brighter tomorrow is to create a little hope for someone else.
If you have any questions about our campaign or how to get involved, please don’t hesitate to contact me at TwinzerDad@gmail.com.
This year’s campaign will run from October 19th until December 15th. Let’s make this year the best one yet!
Dale was born in Pittsburgh, PA but currently lives outside of Reading, PA. He graduated with a BA in photojournalism from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA in 2007. He has worked as a Marketing Brand Representative in the optical industry for five years. Dale lives in a quiet suburb with his beautiful wife and twin three-year-old boys. He enjoys Pittsburgh sports, comic books and bad action movies from the 80’s and 90’s. Dale also runs a comedic twitter account under the handle @TwinzerDad.