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Last week, the world's biggest international toy fair took place in Nuremberg, Germany.

It might not be a notable event for most of us. After all, it was the 67th one and if you're a parent of young kids, every day can feel like a big, messy toy fair in your own house. But it was actually quite significant.

Toy giant Lego unveiled a tiny figure that represents big progress in the evolution of toys — something that's about so much more than another little Lego minifigure you risk stepping on and experiencing seventh-circle-of-hell-level pain.


Lego will soon release a figure that uses a wheelchair.

Photo by Daniel Karmann/AFP/Getty Images.

Yep, that's right! Photographers at the event snapped pics of a Lego guy in a wheelchair (alongside a Lego dad pushing a baby in a stroller and a Lego mom holding a bottle).

Photo by Daniel Karmann/AFP/Getty Images.

Washington Post reported that the Lego figure will be available in June as part of a City Set. (Lego didn't respond to Upworthy's request for comment.)

While the creation of this new figure is a big deal, the movement that may have led to it is too.

London-based journalist and mom of two Rebecca Atkinson has long wanted toys to be more representative of all kids.

Atkinson's doctors discovered she was partially deaf when she was 3 years old. When she was 17, she began losing her vision.

Rebecca Atkinson. Photo used with permission.

I grew up with two hearing aids," Rebecca said. "When I was a child, I never saw myself represented in the toys I played with, in the books I read, or in the TV shows that I watched.”

And that's a problem.

One year ago, Atkinson decided to do something about it by launching a campaign called Toy Like Me, a movement to encourage toy manufacturers to create more diverse toys. "I'm determined to change the toy box for generations to come before the rest of my vision goes," she told Upworthy.

To get the ball rolling, she made some model toys, like a Tinker Bell with a cochlear implant, a doll in a wheelchair, and figures that used guide dogs.

Photo provided by Rebecca Atkinson/Toy Like Me. Used with permission.

The Toy Like Me movement gained momentum, and soon, others were sharing their own modified toys on social media with the hashtag #ToyLikeMe.

Photo provided by Rebecca Atkinson/Toy Like Me. Used with permission.

Atkinson harnessed the power of social media — and the voices of those who want more diversity in toys — to petition toymakers directly.

She created a change.org petition to Playmobil nine months ago, asking the company, "Where are your wheelchair wizards, blind fairies, genies with hearing aids, and princesses with walking frames?"

Over 50,000 people must have wondered the same thing because the petition received that many signatures.

And guess what? Playmobil responded just one month later, reaching out directly to Atkinson. She's been working with them as a creative disability consultant and a line of characters with disabilities with be released in 2017. Success!

Next up: She set her sights on Lego.

Photos provided by Rebecca Atkinson/Toy Like Me. Used with permission.

Eight months ago, Atkinson created a change.org petition directed to Lego, asking them to "think outside the brick box. Mix it up a bit! Add some brawn, stamina, a few sweat bands, couple of half pipes, and some lightning fast wheelchairs."

Over 20,000 people signed the petition and then ... silence.

Until last week, when this guy made his debut at the toy fair.

Photo by Daniel Karmann/AFP/Getty Images.

"I hope that the work we have done to raise the issue in the toy industry has in part had some influence on Lego to create this figure," Atkinson said. "We are certainly very happy to see it happen."

Happy indeed! Because representation matters — both to kids with disabilities and kids without.

Atkinson was emphatic about what this new Lego figure means:

"The message behind Lego’s wheelie boy is so much larger than his teeny-tiny stature. His birth in the toy box marks a seismic shift within children’s industries. There are 150 million children with disabilities worldwide, yet until now they have scarcely ever seen themselves positively reflected in the media and toys they consume... This says Lego is behind disabled kids, that they are part of the cultural mainstream.

In addition to kids with disabilities seeing themselves represented positively in their toys and in the media, diverse toys matter to all kids. When they're introduced to differences, disabilities, special needs, and racial diversity early in life — through their toys and other exposure, like kids' movies and cartoons — and the characters are presented as perfectly normal individuals, kids learn that differences are, in fact, perfectly normal.

Imagine a world where a kid's first exposure to a child in a wheelchair or a child who is missing limbs is a non-event because they've been playing with toys with similar differences from the beginning. That sounds like a great world to me.

And don't forget another important point: Our voices matter.

Companies respond to what consumers want, and we're seeing it happen with toy manufacturers. American Girl recently released a diabetes care kit after an 11-year-old's social media movement encouraging them to do so received a lot of support. Playmobil has a line of toys with disabilities in the works. And now Lego is introducing a minifigure in a wheelchair.

Social media and the collective power of our voices really can change our kids' future for the better, one Lego at at time.

Images provided by Pacifico

Making waves in the best way

True

At last, summer is here. And for many people, that means it's time for heading to the beach and maybe even catching some waves. Surfing is a quintessential summertime activity for those who live in coastal communities—it’s not only really fun and challenging, it’s also a great way to celebrate Mother Nature’s beauty. Even after a wipeout, the cool water mixed with warm sunshine offers a certain kind of euphoria. Or, you know, just hanging back on the sand is plenty fun too. Simply being outdoors near the ocean is its own reward.

pacifico quiksilver beach cleanupLet’s protect the places where outdoor adventure happensAll photos provided by Pacifico

However, it's well known that our beautiful beaches are suffering the consequences of overcrowding, pollution and littering. What was once a way of playing in nature is now slowly destroying it. And of course, this affects beachgoers everywhere. The sad truth is—without taking action to preserve all the natural joys the earth provides, we will eventually lose them.

But there is hope. Two popular brands that both have roots in surf culture have teamed up to help make trips to the beach a more sustainable pastime. The best part? You don’t have to know how to hang ten in order to participate.

Pacifico®, a pilsner-style lager originally brought to the U.S. by surfers, and Quiksilver, an iconic apparel company loved by both surfers and beach goers alike, have created a brand-new range of clothing and accessories with sustainability in mind.

Take a look below. These threads are great for all kinds of fun in the sun, without compromising the environment.

pacifico quicksilver beach cleanupsReady to make some waves

The collection launches on July 5 and includes tees and woven shirts, boardshorts, hats, flip-flops and a special beach towel and tote bag. The unique collaboration features the vibrant, colorful designs that are the hallmark of Quiksilver combined with Pacifico elements, created to make a positive impact.

Each item has been thoughtfully curated to minimize an environmental footprint and protect the outdoors. The hats, for example, are made from NetPlus® by Bureo®, a raw material created from South American recycled fishing nets. Additionally, the board shorts are made from recycled plastic bottles, and tees are made with 100% organic cotton. Pretty rad stuff, to put it in surfer lingo.

The prices on these pieces are equally rad, ranging from $28 flip-flops to $60 boardshorts.

In keeping with the sustainable ethos and protecting the places we play, Pacifico and Quiksilver will celebrate the products’ launch by hosting two beach cleanups. The first is on July 5 at Sunset Point in Malibu, California, from 4-5:30pm, and the second is on July 9th at Deerfield Beach in Florida from 8:30 – 10:30am.

pacifico quicksilver clothing lineCleaning up and looking good while doing it

Theses beach cleanups are open to anyone over the age of 21 who’s ready to have some fun while taking care of nature’s playground.

Those who can’t make it to the beach (bummer, dude) don’t have to miss out on all the fun. The new collection will be available on July 5th at www.quiksilver.com/mens-collab-pacifico. And even if you don’t surf, never plan to surf, have no desire to even be near a surfboard, rest assured, the apparel is still cool. Plus sustainable choices are always good fashion.

Our planet provides us with an endless supply of beauty and adventure. But without more mindful actions from humanity, its natural wonders will eventually diminish. Fortunately Pacifico and Quiksilver are making it easier than ever for people to enjoy the great outdoors without jeopardizing it. That’s a wave worth riding.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


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