Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to questions we often hear about Empty Stocking Club and our Toy Depot, how to apply and volunteer, and logistics around our yearly toy distribution event.

Applying to receive a toy

If I registered in previous years, am I automatically registered for the current year?

No, you must apply and submit a new registration each year. Not everyone automatically needs Empty Stocking Club each year, and our event aims to address the needs of the current year.

What ages of children can I receive toys for?

Families may select one toy for each of their children ages 0-16. In partnership with the United Way, we are continuing the addition of the Teen Gift Holiday Drive to our toy distribution program. Families are now invited to register all of their children through the age of 16.

Am I still eligible to receive toys for my children if I've received some in previous years?

Yes. Previous participation in Empty Stocking Club does not prohibit anyone from participating in subsequent years.

What if I want to get toys for my grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc.?

Parents or guardians who have primary guardianship of children are eligible to receive one toy for each registered child. If someone other than the parent or guardian is picking up toys, they must have the voucher for those children signed by the parent.

How many toys can I get?

Family members may select one toy and one book for each child verified on their voucher.

Can each parent or guardian pick a toy for a child?

The Empty Stocking Club provides one new toy and one new book per child, not a toy per parent to give out. The application process captures the names of parents or primary guardians and first names and birthdates of their children to avoid duplication.

How do I sign my child(ren) up to receive a toy?

Families must register to participate in the Empty Stocking Club by filling out an application. Applications ask for basic information about parents or primary guardians along with the first names and ages of each child in the family age 18 and under. Applications are distributed via schools and community organizations and can also be submitted online.

When and where is the Toy Depot?

The 2022 Empty Stocking Club Toy Depot will take place from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 14 and Wednesday, December 15 at the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall in Madison, Wisconsin.

Can I register onsite? What if I forgot to register and the deadline has passed?

You may register your child(ren) onsite at the Alliant Energy Center from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 14 or Wednesday, December 15 by bringing in a photo ID, something showing your current address and birth certificates or something else showing the date of birth for your children being registered. On-site registration may require additional time, depending on lines.

Toy Depot event

How are toys selected for my children?

Parents or guardians select a toy and book for each child. You will be escorted through the Toy Depot by a volunteer "personal shopper" who can answer questions, swap toys out if you change your mind, and help you take home the toy and book you think best fits each of your children.

If I miss the Toy Depot, can I still pick up a toy for my child(ren)?

Toys are only able to be distributed during the Toy Depot. After that time, toys are in storage and are not accessible.

Where do all the toys that are given away come from?

Thanks to generous contributions from individuals, businesses and organizations, the majority of the toys are purchased by Wisconsin Youth Services, the charitable foundation of the Wisconsin State Journal, from area retailers. Donations can be made online or by mailing a check to the Wisconsin State Journal Youth Services, 1901 Fish Hatchery Rd., Madison, WI53711.

What if the toy I want for my child is in a different age category?

We strive to build a toy inventory that matches the ages of children who are registered. While there are no specific guidelines about which toys can be selected for each child, we ask that parents/guardians select toys within a general, age-appropriate range.

What if I want to get toys for my grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc.?

Parents or guardians who have primary guardianship of children are eligible to receive one toy for each registered child. If someone other than the parent or guardian is picking up toys, they must have the voucher for those children signed by the parent.

How many toys can I get?

Family members may select one toy and one book for each child verified on their voucher.

Can each parent or guardian pick a toy for a child?

The Empty Stocking Club provides one new toy and one new book per child, not a toy per parent to give out. The application process captures the names of parents or primary guardians and first names and birthdates of their children to avoid duplication.

When and where is the Toy Depot?

The 2022 Empty Stocking Club Toy Depot will take place from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 14 and Wednesday, December 15 at the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall in Madison, Wisconsin.

Can I register onsite? What if I forgot to register and the deadline has passed?

You may register your child(ren) onsite at the Alliant Energy Center from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 14 or Wednesday, December 15 by bringing in a photo ID, something showing your current address and birth certificates or something else showing the date of birth for your children being registered. On-site registration may require additional time, depending on lines.

Volunteering and getting involved

What if we want to volunteer as a group?

We love having groups volunteer, and we frequently have people from the same company or organization volunteering together. If you are signing up a group, we'll ask you to indicate how many will be in the group and to provide names for ease in check in and to ensure we have enough people power to manage the event.

What do volunteers do during their shifts?

There are multiple volunteer roles available, and you can select whatever works best for you. Volunteers spend time unloading toys from semi-trucks, setting up the toy depot, assisting families in toy selection, registering and checking people out, and offering other assistance to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Where do all the toys that are given away come from?

Thanks to generous contributions from individuals, businesses and organizations, the majority of the toys are purchased by Wisconsin Youth Services, the charitable foundation of the Wisconsin State Journal, from area retailers. Donations can be made online or by mailing a check to the Wisconsin State Journal Youth Services, 1901 Fish Hatchery Rd., Madison, WI53711.

When and where is the Toy Depot?

The 2022 Empty Stocking Club Toy Depot will take place from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 14 and Wednesday, December 15 at the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall in Madison, Wisconsin.

How do I volunteer?

Thanks for your willingness to help by volunteering your time! Putting on a successful Toy Depot event requires the volunteer efforts of many groups and individuals. To register, go to our online volunteer sign-up and select a date, timeframe and role in which you are willing to volunteer.