People who play FarmVille, the popular Facebook game, have bought 101,409 "Cheer Ewe Up" virtual horses, priced at $1 each, so needy kids will get real toys during the holiday season.
The horse is the most popular virtual item in "Oh, What Fun," a holiday campaign to benefit Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.
The drive was created by Zynga.org, whose affiliated company Zynga owns many of the most popular games on Facebook. It is the first time Zynga has ever asked its game makers to craft virtual goods to raise money for a single cause, apart from disaster-relief fundraising.
Ken Weber, executive director of Zynga.org, says the amount raised so far will provide 28,800 toys for needy kids.
People on Facebook can buy specially marked virtual goods for Toys for Tots while they play a range of games: CityVille, CastleVille, Words with Friends, FrontierVille, Bubble Safari, Draw Something, and FarmVille.
In CityVille, for instance, players see a screen that asks them to help Toys for Tots. They can buy a toy boutique, a toy truck statue, a toy factory, or an elf toy factory, with prices that range from $1 to $100.
"I love it when something like this happens," says Major William Grein, vice president of marketing and development for Toys for Tots, who initially thought the campaign would only raise $50,000. "When we do our estimate, we estimate low. We were just perfectly happy at whatever we got. This is a real good thing. We hope this continues for the next three weeks."
Money raised won't be used to buy toys this holiday season, but for next year's Christmas, Mr. Grein says. "We're having a pretty good year thus far," he says.
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