Why Oprah’s ‘Big Give’ Television Show Is A Big Joke.

bigivelogo.jpgSunday night I checked out this ABC show “Oprah’s Big Give” that had been getting a lot of attention lately. Seems that the show’s premise is simple – two teams are given tasks each week to donate X amount of money, and at the end of the episode someone get’s kicked off for not pulling their weight/making bad decisions. Sounds like any other reality show, nothing groundbreaking there. The only thing different is that Oprah is involved and as usual, everything she does is designed to make people feel better about themselves. This is not necessarily a bad thing; I think Oprah does a TON of good around the world with her philanthropic activities and such. But this show, “Big Give”, is a big joke…and here is why.

Sunday’s episode involved two teams trying to give money/items to two different schools. One school was getting a new playground, which was fantastic. The kids were playing on cement and had a metal bar to swing on – that’s all. It was an incredibly depressing. So the teams were putting together info for an entirely new playground, which all the kids benefit from, whether they are in this year’s class or a class 10 years from now – it’s a long-term investment in kids that need it most. Fantastic use of money, right? Right. This task was really great. It was the other one that I had a problem with.

The other team was to provide a Christmas for the kids in the school. So you know what they did? They went out and bought every piece of plastic toy in the store to hand out to these kids who had never had a good Christmas before. The teachers were crying about how the kids always “go without” and how this year would be great now that they are getting presents. Could someone please explain to me how getting a plastic toy changes a kids life for any length of time? I just don’t get it…I mean, my wife and I donate presents every year to the Toy Drive put on by the firemen in our city…but I am not Oprah with a television-size budget, able to make a REAL difference in these kids lives. A toy is not going to change a child’s place in life. A playground? Absolutely. A Matchbox car? Not so much. You would think that Oprah would know better than to promote handing out toys instead of something worthwhile. This task was designed to make the “givers” feel good about themselves and that was it…while these kids get a toy that they will probably stop playing with in a week or two. Here are a few things they could have done with that money to really help these kids:

  • Provide cleaner classrooms
  • Set up nutrition programs
  • Build a new playground
  • Buy new textbooks
  • Hire more teachers
  • Send the kids on field trips

I could go on and on with this…but watching the show was sad because if Oprah thinks that giving a toy to a kid equates giving them hope (which one of the team members actually said out loud) then we are in some deep trouble. Only in a materialistic society could a plastic dinosaur equal hope in someone’s mind. Seems rather demeaning to me, and she should know better.

I am all for helping kids…if anything we should be spending a ton more money than we do on things like health care and education for the kids around the world. But for a television show with Oprah’s name on it, last night’s episode was incredibly disappointing and disheartening. A one-time Christmas present does not change lives; with the kind of money that was spent on that show you really could have changed lives. Oprah, I thought you you of all people could come up with something better to help out some poor kids other than plastic crap that does nothing for their self-esteem, their education, or their community.

What a joke.

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Comments (22)

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  1. Emily says:

    I was going to suggest field trips as a great alternative. Showing kids new things and providing them with experiences and memories to last a lifetime is far more valuable than any toy.

  2. Chris says:

    While I completely understand your point and agree that there probably should have been some balance. Sometimes kids just need to feel like kids and getting toys is exciting for them. Coming from a childhood of not having money I always appreciated clothes, and things that were good for me but I always felt best when I got a toy that made me feel like a ‘normal’ kid.

  3. J. P. says:

    Oprah is a media personality
    Andrew Carnegie was a philanthropist
    one of them made a donation to society that lives on to this day, does anyone think that will be true of the “gifts” given by the other?

  4. Mrs. Micah says:

    I can imagine that for a kid who doesn’t get toys, it might mean a lot to get one. Thinking back to stories of my grandfather getting watermelon at the orphanage and how excited that made him.

    But if they’re looking to do some good in the long run, I agree. It’s not sustainable.

  5. how about a golden nugget or a morgan silver dollar?

    that would’ve brightened my christmas!

  6. Everything is about showmanship. Pictures of little kids with some cheap toy will always win out.

    Personally, I like the field trip idea.

  7. I was a kid who got donated presents once, and I have to tell you, it has impacted me to this day. However, like you at Christmas, my presents were donated by one person, not by a group of people with Oprah’s budget.

    You’re right that there are many better uses of the money. How about investing in a music program? Our PTA donated money to our elementary school’s music program for the purpose of buying 3/4 sized guitars, so the kids could learn how to play. That’s HUGE in an area where music programs are falling by the wayside.

    The new playground was a great idea too. Our PTA took care of that a couple of years ago, and it’s made a world of difference, not only for the school kids, but for neighborhood kids who play on the school playground during the summer.

    Whatever they did, it should have been something lasting. Now I know why I didn’t watch. 🙂

  8. Evelyn says:

    I do see your point about the other items that would have long-term benefit for more than just those children in that class … but sometimes all a kid wants is to be just like all the other kids around them. Something as simple as a new plastic toy can provide that feeling.

  9. rocketc says:

    I love bitter posts about Oprah. . . 🙂

    Actually, I don’t think that giving a toy is such a bad idea, but what about toys that will last a while and maybe give the kid a chance to exercise. Here is my list of suggested “good” toys:

    shovel (no, really, I had a lot of fun digging when I was a kid)
    a toy kitchen
    any kind of ball or sports equipment
    games like Monopoly (I’m a pf blogger, duh!)
    building toys like Leggos, blocks, and my favorite: lincoln logs

  10. AA says:

    Sorry to “go there” but what about kids who may not be Christians? Did they still receive toys? Were they left out? Was it just free toy day? I understand the desire to want to be like all the other kids, but choosing a religious holiday as a way to change their lives has additional problems.

    I do believe all kids should have a toy and I especially like RocketC’s suggestion for educational/healthy/long term toys. But, thinking back to my own childhood, the BEST memories I have are of experiences .. on the playground, in a park, at a beach .. places and people, not things. Those are the experiences that helped to put me in a better place by giving me hope. Sure, that doll meant a lot for a relatively short period of time, but the adventures I had while riding my bike are legendary – if only in my mind 🙂

    I guess it all goes back to the give a man a fish/teach a man to fish story .. give hope by teaching, not by giving. What happens next year? Who is going to swoop in and save the day?

  11. FFB says:

    I can’t say I watched the show. It sounded too sensational to watch for me. The best thing they could do with the money would be to start a trust so the money could grow and always be there for future generations. But that would be boring. A bunch of christmas toys, though it may seem noble, really doesn’t sound like it was the best decision.

    Hopefully the spirit of giving yourself is what resonates. We’ll see.

  12. Natural says:

    Uh how about not lying to kids with this whole “christmas” stuff. santa claus, reindeers. It’s not even a truthful holiday. If you’re going to lie to kids, might as well give ’em a gift while you’re doing it even if it is plastic.

    I’m not mad at you. love your blog.

  13. dawn says:

    I understand your logic – and that’s what it is… logic.
    Your saying all the right words – but I think you might be missing the point that “a one-time” anything can truly change a life.
    I’ve worked with disadvantaged kids for more than two decades – and a lot of them have never had a “plastic piece of crap toy” to call their own.
    You really don’t know what a difference receiving something to call their own, could do to change their perspective on life and the world around them.
    Really the whole argument is comparing apples to oranges – their both good!

  14. Erik says:

    haha, i love when I hear stuff that bashes Oprah. She’s such a phoney. She’s a freakin’ billionaire. She definitely gives away less than 10% of her net worth, which happens to still be a lot of money, but not in comparison to her net worth or yearly income.

    I agree with you, none of the people on the show are getting the big picture. Use the money to set up something that will give for a lifetime, not just handing people $500. They’ll blow that before the sun goes down.

    I still haven’t seen anyone give $5k to fully fund a Roth IRA for someone. If they did that for a poor 25 year old, that 5k would turn into $165k if the person never touched it again.

  15. My husband was saying the same thing, and I agree that there are things that could have helped them more, but as I pointed out to my husband the gifts for the kids is what the teachers and principal at this school wanted, so that’s what they were given. Yeah, new things for the school would have been wonderful, but that’s not what the people at the school requested when they wrote to Oprah. It’s very possible that many of these kids have never had something to call their own and that can do powerful things for a child.

  16. […] at My Two Dollars tells us about Oprah’s new show.  Guess she believes every kid should have the opportunity […]

  17. David says:

    Thanks for all the comments guys, just a few thoughts:

    @ Ron – “Pictures of little kids with some cheap toy will always win out.” – I couldn’t agree more; it’s sad, really. As long as the givers feel good, that’s really all that matters for these type of shows.

    @AA – “What happens next year? Who is going to swoop in and save the day?” Exactly my thought. This year a plastic toy, next year it’s back to getting nothing. It’s just not right at all.

    @Dawn – I have to respectfully disagree – giving a kid a one time gift of a toy is not really much of anything compared to giving them (and future grades of kids) something substantial that benefits them. If Oprah really wanted to make a difference, she would have chosen a different, and in my opinion, more important task than giving out toys. Toys you can get locally from toy drives – this is Oprah $$ we are talking about!

    @Alison – I agree in principal, but Oprah still decided to let their “needs” (and I use that term very loosely) onto her show, so she could have chosen a better need than just toys.

    But we all have our opinions on it…these just happen to be mine!

  18. Roman says:

    You are completely correct. They should focus on long term change instead of short term gains. That money should benefit
    everyone not just a limited to a x group. Its great that those kids got gifts but it still should have been on a more longterm scale.

  19. Steve says:

    Yeah and the kids who got the playground are going to grow up and not use it anymore, and it too will someday get old and unused by anyone.

    If you remember the magic of christmas as a child you would know that the memories of those simple plastic toys can be a powerful and beautiful one to hold on to for the rest of your life. Weren’t you ever excited to open up that one thing you’ve been wanting all year but could never buy? Not everything has to be “useful” to be worth while.

  20. Steve says:

    Also you preach against materialism while at the same time slamming Oprah for not giving them more books and teachers? Why so they can grow up and go to college and get a higher paying job? Why? So they can buy their children nicer things then they had? It’s all equally as materialistic as giving them toys. Just postponed materialism. Money can’t fix their lives, only they can do that for themselves, but money can give them something nice to remember and enjoy.

  21. David says:

    Oprah, is that you?

    No one said money can fix their lives Steve, you don’t need to be so angry about it. Money can help alleviate some of the strains they are under, such as not having good nutrition or up-to-date textbooks or yes, a playground consisting of something other than a rusty pipe. Did you watch the show and see what these kids “had”?

    A toy benefits one child, and while there is nothing at all wrong with giving a needy child a toy, we are talking Oprah and TV here…they could have done a world of good for these kids but chose not to.

  22. toni says:

    Had anyone ever thought that it was not Oprah that decided what to give to those kids? As you said, there where two teams, one team decided to build a playground, the other team decided to give plastic crap toys. Oprah just provided the resources, and remember it is a reality show, the goal was to be able to give a gift to target groups. I do agree the plastic toys were not a good idea but hey blame the team who gave the toys, not Oprah!