Photos for toys – a picture-perfect fundraiser

November 12, 2017

Written By

Mary Friona Celani

Neal Urban started a unique and amazing fundraiser four years ago. Photos for Toys was a great way to help those in need to have toys for their children at Christmas time. The photographer makes these holiday photos affordable, with that extra incentive to bring a toy and save even more.

“We give people the option to pay full price or they can go for the discount when they bring in an unwrapped toy. It was important to us that the toys stay local. We’ve heard of a few companies that collect toys on a trailer and then ship them off out of town to their headquarters and disperse them nationally. We came across Cradle Beach, it’s a local organization located in Angola, NY. Every year they arrive with their truck to collect the toy donations and they disperse the toys to local families in need. The kids who normally don’t have anything to open on Christmas now have the opportunity to do so.”

Talk about  a win-win. Neal says his clients go above and beyond when they bring in a toy, too. They don’t require a dollar amount to receive a $50 discount.They leave it up to the client – but, Neal says sometimes the toys donated cost $100 or more, “The toys pile up in our studio quickly and the kids get excited when they see all of the toys and all they want to do is play with them and take them home. This gives the parents an opportunity to explain to their kids that the toys are special and they’re going to boys and girls who are less fortunate then they are. It’s a special experience to watch the parents explain to their children. Hopefully that will stay with them throughout their lives and continue to give.”

Neal and his wife, Danielle say giving back is important to them. For these shoots – it really is all about the kids – the ones who will be getting those donated toys…  and the ones they’re photographing.

“When kids come in they really don’t know what to expect. The last thing we want them to be is nervous or scared. I think the environment we create sets them at ease and gets them excited. We have a friendly staff that welcomes them as soon as they enter our doors.”

Add to that some Christmas music and lights and it’s like a mini North Pole,  “Our set is at the far end of our studio so when they turn the corner they area greeted by something they’ve never seen before or only have seen in the movies. It’s at that moment it becomes a magical experience. We have a lot of gadgets and staff members that help grab and keep the kids attention. We also keep the time slots to 15 minutes. It may not seem like a lot of time but parents rave about it because their kids have a short attention span.”

At Neal Urban Studio – it’s a season of giving, “We live in a selfish world where the act of giving is slowly dying. I’m fortunate enough to have a talent and platform where I can make a difference. I hope to inspire others who have the means to give back as well and I’m seeing more and more people doing so which is great!”

The photo studio shoots weddings and much more. Check out Neal’s work at


About Me

Welcome to Totally Buffalo! My name is Mary Friona-Celani and I am the creator of this site! After spending 20 years in the Buffalo media, I moved on to focus on my beautiful family. Now, the time has come for a new project. I was ready for something new. Something mine.
I am born and raised in WNY and my pride runs deep. My husband, Scott and I are very happy to be raising our four daughters here.






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