Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Charity BrickDreams Donates LEGO to Victims of Abuse

How a 15-Year-Old Made a Charity to Match Unused LEGO with Kids in Need

Looking to donate LEGO pieces to a charity serving young victims of abuse? See the bottom of this post for details on where to send your LEGO donation!

BrickDreams accepts a donation from BRICK Marketplace
The day after his 15th birthday, Bailey Snow was riding in the car with his family and reading trivia on his phone. He saw a piece of info that piqued his interest: there were 62 LEGO pieces for every person on earth. That’s 434 billion pieces! Bailey thought about his own LEGO collection. He thought of the many billions of bricks that must be going unused, and about all the kids who can’t afford LEGO. Perhaps those are the very kids who would benefit the most from access to these enriching toys. He decided something needed to be done.

BrickDreams was born on that day more than three years ago. In that time, the organization has donated more than 800 lbs. of LEGO pieces to child victims of domestic violence and abuse. To Bailey, such kids obviously constituted the greatest need.

"Say a kid is a victim of domestic violence," Bailey said. "They have to leave the house quickly and they don't have a lot of things. They can go to shelters and get clothes and toiletries, but they can't get something like LEGOs to help them escape. I've heard from police who tell me they like LEGOs for when they go out on domestic violence calls because they can give it to a kid and it helps out during a stressful time."

Bailey accepts USA Today award check
In April 2014, Bailey was honored with USA Today’s ‘Make a Difference Day’ award. One of ten winners, he won $10,000, which he donated to WEAVE Inc., one of the first organizations that BrickDreams donated LEGO to. Since the USA Today piece on BrickDreams, and a feature on popular YouTube channel EvanTubeHD that earned 1.2 million views, donations have come in from across the country.

But getting donations hasn’t always been easy. Snow began by blanketing his neighborhood with a simple flyer seeking donations. There were no responses at first. In fact, his first donation came from a friend of his mom’s, who heard about Bailey’s effort on a girl’s night out. More local canvassing efforts turned up little interest, so the Snow family reached out to a local newspaper, the Granite Bay Press Tribune. The paper ran a story on the effort, and donations began to take off.

BrickDreams awards and accolades
  • Make a Difference Day Award (USA Today)
  • Points of Light Award (George H.W. Bush’s charity)
  • Molina Community Champion Award
  • California Legislature Assembly Recognition for Philanthropic Efforts
BrickDreams’ new glut of bricks now needed a home. The Snow family reached out to Sacramento’s WEAVE Inc., an organization that advocates for abused women and children, who were thrilled to accept. Galvanized by their successful delivery of all donated pieces, the Snows set about seeking more donations. Several more local papers covered the inspiring effort of this 15-year-old passionately making a difference for abused children in his community. The Sacramento Bee, the largest publication in the family’s metro area, even picked up the story.

Thanks to the article in the Sacramento Bee, a donor came forward with an idea that would become central to the BrickDreams brand: using tennis ball canisters to pack the LEGO pieces. Until now, they had been packed into zipping plastic bags. The donor was a member of a tennis club, which was all too happy to stop throwing out canisters and instead put them to good use. These have now become a signature of BrickDreams.

With donations rolling in, it became apparent that volunteer sorters and packers would be needed. And more recipient organizations. Kids from school and friends of the family were enlisted to help process donations. The volunteers would tear the labels off the tennis canisters, remove weapons and minifigures with potentially scary faces from the donations, and pack the cans. With a cache of ready-to-go brick canisters, they began providing sets to a broader group of organizations. These included local police and district attorneys who interview child victims of abuse. Such recipients grew to include many jurisdictions throughout the Sacramento metro area.

Organizations that receive the donated LEGO pieces
  • WEAVE Inc.
  • SAFE Center of Sacramento
  • Stand Up Placer
  • Police departments and Chaplaincies in jurisdictions throughout the Sacramento metro area
Now, after three years of work successfully building a non-profit from the ground up, Bailey Snow is handing over the reins so he can attend college at California Polytechnic. A new family, the Rutzs, will be taking over. Bailey and his mother, Nina, said the Rutzs were the obvious and only choice to take over.

“We thought about who we would trust our charity with, and we all decided on one name: the Rutz family,” Nina Snow said. “We offered it to them, and they accepted the responsibility of taking over BrickDreams. Their sons, Kyle and Lleyton, will do a wonderful job. It is a bittersweet time for our family.”

The Rutzs first got started with BrickDreams more than a year ago, when their sons saw a BrickDreams flyer in a Starbucks. Their father is a pro tennis player, and their family was involved with several tennis clubs, so the need for tennis ball cans jumped out at them.

Since then, the Rutz family has used their extensive social and professional connections to help bring in many more donations. They’ve also helped bolster the numbers of volunteers who process and pack the LEGO pieces, even getting a group of more than 50 together on a single day to help out.

Now, the Rutz family is transitioning into management of BrickDreams, as Bailey’s first semester of college is underway. Here’s what Susan Rutz had to say about their plans for BrickDreams in the coming year:

“We see BrickDreams expanding relationships to include all agencies and organizations serving women and children in domestic violence and felony abuse situations within 50 miles of Sacramento,” Susan said.

Susan’s two 12-year-old sons, Lleyton and Kyle, are preparing to take over many of Bailey’s responsibilities. In the meantime, the entire family will be working together to help BrickDreams grow and impact the lives of children in tough situations.

Want to help out?

BrickDreams is holding a volunteer LEGO-packing day for Make a Difference Day. Even just an hour of your time makes a difference. Sign up for their event in Granite Bay on October 24, 2015!

Donate LEGO bricks or sets by emailing donate@brickdreams.org, or send them straight away to:

P.O. Box 891
Folsom, CA  95763

Learn more by visiting BrickDreams.org!

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