Friday, December 30, 2011

RAZ 2011: A Truly Rewarding Way To Spread Some Joy #RAZ2011 @Zhuniverse

This year I was chosen as one of 100 bloggers to participate in the RAZ 2011 Program with Cepia, LLC the makers of the Zhu-niverse™ toys and MomSelect™. Each blogger received between 20-96 boxes of Zhu-themed toys to give to the local charity(ies) of their choice.  This is the third year that Cepia has done their RAZ program and I am SO excited to have been chosen as one of the bloggers!

I ended up receiving 20 big boxes of traditional Zhu-Zhu Pet toys and their playsets. I bundled them into 28 bundles and started my quest for the perfect charity to work with.  (Pictures coming when I find my camera that the kids ended up playing with over Christmas)

I remembered this wonderful charity that I was introduced to at a local community event this summer called Heartbeat for Wounded Warriors, and I contacted Janice, the Founder/President to see if they could use the Zhu bundles.  She was very excited and started reaching out within her network to see who had the greatest need for the toys.

Janice actually had me work directly with Deborah, a Lead Family Assistance Coordinator working with the National Guard so I could get the toys to the divisions that needed them the most QUICKLY.  When Deborah and I met in person, she explained that many of our National Guard members went overseas when called to Active-Duty, but when they returned to resume their normal jobs (they normally have every-day jobs during the week, and National Guard jobs on the weekend, until they are called to Active Duty), many of those jobs didn't exist anymore due to the downturn in the economy and businesses closing or down-sizing, and that many members are still having trouble finding permanent jobs.  She then explained that she had plenty of families that would LOVE to receive the help of the Zhu toys for Christmas, and that she would be giving them to families that day.

Bundled Set - Close-up
Filled The Back of My Van!

Deborah (Right) and Me (Left)
When I think of both the RAZ 2011 program and the Heartbeat For Wounded Warriors, I will have to admit that the whole thing brought tears to my eyes more than once.  Knowing the work that Heartbeat does for soldiers and their families across the US, and that they are a locally-based charity, I am so happy to have been part of their support network for a very short time.  I highly encourage you to visit their website and read more about what they do and how they help families across the United States.

About Heartbeat For Wounded Warriors

Heartbeat—Serving Wounded Warriors provides emergency assistance, therapeutic services, support groups, and morale-building programs for wounded service members and their families in Washington state. Our focus is on the wounded and injured. Heartbeat is a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

We offer our programs to wounded and injured service members from all branches of the military: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy.

How we help
Heartbeat’s programs and services for wounded warriors and their families are continually growing. We offer support for many types of needs: emergency, physical, emotional, and daily living.

-Current services and programs include
-Emergency financial assistance
-Back in the Saddle Warriors—equine assisted therapy program
-Scuba Warriors—therapeutic scuba activity
-Morale-Building programs and events
-ARC kits for incoming wounded warriors

Read more about Why They Help and their History at the Heartbeat website.

I'd like to say a huge Thank You to Cepia LLC for donating the toys, and MomSelect for coordinating and communicating about this great program! I'm truly blessed and consider this experience to have been a huge benefit to my local community, and I'm very proud to have been a part of it.

Check out all the great Zhu-Zhu toys at

*Disclosure: Cepia, LLC provided the toys for the RAZ 2011 program, and MomSelect coordinated the disbursement of the toys and all communication.  I did not receive any form of communication or toys for this event, but ended up taking away the satisfaction that I got to be part of a large group of bloggers helping local communities.

Reposted from my original blog Wendi's Book Corner ~ Rainy Day Reads (and More) in Seattle, some things may have been edited, originally published December, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Planning A Perfect Christmas Eve Birthday Party At Chuck E Cheese (Fun, Easy, and Affordable) @chuckecheese

Every year I face the challenge of finding a way to make our older son's Christmas Eve birthday special, and keeping it separate from Christmas. This year I am so excited... I am planning a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party - and YES - They are open on Christmas Eve!

We've got to figure out his presents (we always put them on the table after he's gone to bed and sort them into Birthday and Christmas), and I promised to make his cake - he wants the Candyland Cake that was featured in a Taste of Home magazine, made with a brownies.  Anyone have a suggestion for the filling?  I'm going to make two large pans of brownies, and stack them...

I love that Chuck E. Cheese will let us bring the cake and ice cream for the party, while they provide everything else!

The best part about having a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party is that they always have great deals on food and tokens, and I don't have to do extra work at home to get ready for the party or to clean up!!

Right now, for every $25 gift card purchased at a Chuck E. Cheese location, you will get 20 tokens for free. I'm planning to go in ahead of time to purchase a bunch of gift cards to pay for the party - that way, I'll have extra tokens, plus, I reserved the party online which gives you 20 bonus tokens!

It is so easy to reserve a party - I went online and reserved a Christmas Eve party at one of the locations near me, estimated the number of people coming and selected the food/party favors that I wanted.  The online reservation even gave me an estimated cost for my party - it is so great!

Not only are there fun games for the kids to play, there are fun picture opportunities, a great birthday show, yummy food and great party bags.

Chuck E. Cheese also has some really great online features, like their Activities page which has some great printable activities for the kids and to help with the holidays:  Paper Chain Decoration, Holiday Gift List, Gift Tags, a Matching Game and a Babysitter Checklist.

Plus, under the Chuck E. Games section, you can find some fun online games (you can even earn bonus tickets for use at a location by playing the Skee Ball Game), printable coloring pages, music and so much more - come check it out!

Logan can't wait to have his birthday at Chuck E. Cheese - I don't know what he is looking forward to more.. the games, the Ticket Blaster Experience, or the pizza...  :)

Reposted from my original blog Wendi's Book Corner ~ Rainy Day Reads (and More) in Seattle, some things may have been edited, originally published December, 2011

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