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P.S. 87 Eliminates Plastic Prizes for Kids in Eco-Friendly Effort

By Emily Frost | October 26, 2013 10:11am
 Giving away the toys sends kids the wrong message, the school's parent group said.
P.S. 87 to Stop Handing Out Plastic Toys
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Kids won't win any plastic prizes at P.S. 87's fall fundraising festival on Saturday, after parents decided the toys were bad for the environment.

The free bouncy balls, spinning tops and figurines had been a popular feature of the Upper West Side school's semiannual fundraising fairs, but P.S. 87's Parents' Association eliminated them after noticing that they always ended up in the garbage — often immediately after kids won them.

"These cheap toys and souvenirs are showing up everywhere — doctor's offices, dentist offices, party goodie bags — and the scale of it is a real environmental problem," said parent Camilla Calamandrei, 48, a member of the Parents' Association's "green committee."

Getting rid of the toys will save the Parents' Association $750 per event, but Calamandrei said that so far it's just a trial run — and depending on the kids' response on Saturday, the change may become permanent.

Calamandrei and fellow parent Abigail Gampel have been working on eliminating the prizes for the past two-and-a-half years. At last spring's fair, they offered kids the choice to forego a prize and instead sponsor a chick or the cost of part of a goat, animals that are donated by Heifer International to needy families in developing countries. Roughly 200 kids participated, Calamandrei said.

"There was a certain resistance to depriving the kids and to [changing] tradition," said Calamandrei, a documentary filmmaker and digital media producer. "We had to change the mindset that [the toys were] a gift."

A newsletter announcing the trial prize elimination went out to parents, and some students are already aware of the change, parents said.

"It will be interesting to see if [the kids] feel a loss," said Gampel, an artist and a teacher. 

"I don't think it will be a big crisis," added Calamandrei.

The parents said getting rid of the two prize tables will allow more room for games like tug-of-war and hula hoops.

"[The removal of prizes] will change the mood, because people will not be obsessed with the prizes," said Calamandrei. "Our kids have so much."