Stuffed Animals Get Transplants in Adorable Campaign About Child Organ Donation

Giving toys, and hopefully kids, a second life

Imagine a plush rooster with a frog's foot where its comb should be.

Such a creature now exists, thanks to a new campaign in Japan. To raise awareness of a shortage of child organ donors, Dentsu employee Akira Suzuki and a colleague created "Second Life Toys," which hopes to resurrect worn-out stuffed animals by combining them with parts from other fuzzy beasts. 

The demo round of the project, developed with the Japanese organ transplant group Green Ribbon Campaign, relied on the participation of plush toy artists from around the world, and led to the creation of characters like an elephant with a squirrel's tail for its trunk, a bear with monkey arms, a whale with a dragon's wings and tail, and a goat with bear leg—and many more. 

Future participants can either donate toys or ask for parts to restore their own bedtime friends. The campaign then asks anyone who gets a plush transplant to write a thank-you letter to the donor—completing the reciprocal circle and helping to illustrate the potential benefits of a more significant medical gift. 

Overall, it's a clever way to spark discussion about the issue. The mashup animals on display in the promo video are, naturally, adorable—and generally speaking, even cooler than the originals. Whether the metaphor seems too cute or far removed from the real necessity to sufficiently spur action is another question. 

Each year, only some 300 people in Japan currently get transplants, out of the 14,000 who need them. That low rate is due in part to cultural hurdles demanding bodies be cremated intact, but also to historically strict legal limitations that, while recently loosened, have hindered organ transplantation.

Any effort that drives toward a better understanding of the practice—and a larger donor pool—is an extremely worthwhile cause, made all the more so given that just one more life saved is all it really takes to make a huge difference.