Charleston mom and businesswoman Chrysti Carol Propes knows children have the ability to make a "great big difference," but often they just need a tangible way to put their philanthropy into action. Enter Monkeez Makes a Difference, a line of stuffed animals that benefit three national nonprofits.
Each stuffed monkey, bear, cow, frog, dog or elephant in the Genuine Monkeez and Friends line comes with a unique code. The code is entered at monkeezandfriends.com, where children watch a video on three national charities: Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, Samaritan's Purse and Best Friends Animal Society. Then the child can select which of those organizations will receive a donation of 10 percent of the profits of the Monkeez stuffed toy. Donations are made in the child's name.
Children also can continue to visit the online Monkeez Island to play educational games and learn more about how to help others.
Propes said the concept is a blend of teaching children a message of thinking about others while combining it with their everyday use of technology. Plus, they learn about the work three organizations are doing on a global scale.
"We're teaching children about philanthropy," Propes said. "We're teaching them that on a great big scale that there are organizations you can partner with that do what you believe in."
Propes said she researched organizations all over the country before settling on three.
Based in Pennsylvania, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation raises money and awareness for childhood cancer.
Headquartered in North Carolina, Samaritan's Purse is a Christian international relief organization. Propes was particularly drawn to the organization's well-known Operation Christmas Child effort, in which people donate a shoebox of gifts for children in impoverished countries around the world.
Because there are so many animals in the Monkeez line, Propes said it just made sense to partner with an animal organization. Best Friends Animal Society is a national animal welfare organization based in Utah.
Monkeez Makes a Difference launched on Sept. 1, 2012, and since then has raised $95,000 for its charitable partners. Monkeez Makes a Difference has been featured in Parents and Woman's World magazines as well as being included in Christmas books for Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.
The company is a division of Charleston-based MVP Group International, a home fragrance company that includes the Colonial Candles brand. The company also runs MVP Granite & Flooring. MVP acquired a company that had a line of sock monkeys, and that's when Propes, a former elementary school teacher, came up with the idea for using the sock monkey line to create a philanthropic message for children.
Doing good daily
Seeing the success of Monkeez Makes a Difference, Propes wanted to take the concept one step further and help children, and parents, understand how they could do good on an individual level.
"I'm a mom, and I don't know if others moms feel this way, but I really don't always know what to do," Propes said. "I want to teach my children to think of others, but how do I do it?"
So Propes created a tool: Do Good Trading Cards. The cards present a series of concepts that challenge children to "do good" on a daily basis. They include such things as inviting a child sitting alone at lunch to sit with you, asking your teacher if you can organize a pet supply drive or even something as simple as making sure you say "thank you" all day.
When children complete the daily challenge, their parents give them the card with a scratch-off code they can redeem for incentives in the online game at monkeezandfriends.com.
Propes loves the monkeys but her hope is that the challenge cards really take off as a way for families to engage in both conversations and actions.
"They really were created to give parents and children a reason to talk about doing good things for others," Propes said.
Propes is already seeing the results in her own sons, 11-year-old Andrew and 7-year-old Ryan. "They are looking for little things to do for people," she said. "My oldest son will see a need and want to figure out how to help." And her younger son is keeping track of how he uses his manners on a daily basis.
Propes' three nieces have taken an interest in global initiatives like education, international medical care and providing sports programs for children.
The program is working at home and Propes continually receives stories from children around the country who are making a difference. It's been a real inspiration, she said.
"We're trying to teach kids that they're young, but they can make a difference," Propes said.
Purchase Monkeez and Do Good Trading Cards online at b2c.monkeezandfriends.com or locally at Wonder Works, Gwynn's of Mount Pleasant and Hollipops Fine Toys & Gifts in Mount Pleasant. Then redeem Monkeez Makes a Difference codes at www.monkeezandfriends.com.
Stuffed toys are used to teach children to think of others on a global scale and helps benefit three national nonprofits.×
Monkeez founder Chrysti Carol Propes arranges some of the stuffed toys.×
Chrysti Carol Propes is the founder of Monkeez,The Charleston mom has helped raise $95,000 for children in need and itþÄôs all thanks to her idea to introduce to the market a line of stuffed toys that give back.Leroy Burnell/staff 12/19/2013×