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ESPHS Kicks Off Holiday Season with Toy Drive Benefitting Children Impacted by Incarceration

-- Visitors invited to donate toys and children’s books in exchange for “Buy One, Get One Free” daytime tour admission to the historic site --

November 9, 2022

Eastern State Penitentiary will celebrate this holiday season with its ninth annual toy drive benefitting local children impacted by incarceration. From November 25 through December 21, anyone who donates a toy or children’s book at the historic site will be granted “Buy One, Get One Free” daytime tour admission.

Eastern State Penitentiary will collect the donations and distribute them to more than a dozen community organizations serving impacted communities. From November 25 through December 21, any Eastern State visitor who donates a new toy or children's book, in its original packaging (but please no gift wrap), will receive a coupon for “Buy One, Get One Free” daytime tour admission, valid through December 31, 2025.

One in 28 American children has a parent in prison. In Pennsylvania alone, there are approximately 81,000 children with a parent incarcerated in a Pennsylvania state prison.

Donations of toys and books that support children’s imaginations, literacy skills, self-esteem, and creativity, from infancy through age 12, are recommended. Gifts should be in their original packaging, without gift wrap.

Individuals may drop off donations at the penitentiary even if they are not planning to take a tour. Items can also be purchased online and shipped directly to the penitentiary:
ATTN: Toy Drive
Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19130

“Last year, we were able to collect more than 1,700 toys and books for local children with currently or recently incarcerated parents,” said Sean Kelley, Eastern State Penitentiary’s Senior Vice President, Director of Interpretation. “We can do even more! For many of us, the winter season is spent with loved ones, sharing meals, perhaps exchanging gifts, and celebrating family traditions with one another. But for the children of the 2 million people incarcerated in America right now, this can be an especially hard time of year. Let’s spread some joy and bring light to these children! Many people who donate to our toy drive tell us that this has become a highlight of their holiday season."

Eastern State Penitentiary distributes the toys and books to families separated by incarceration through a series of community partners:

Ardella's House
Cecil B Moore Recreation Center
Frontline Dads
Institute for Community Justice
Mothers In Charge
Mural Arts Philadelphia
Northwest Victim Services
PAR-Recycle Works
Philadelphia Department of Prisons
Prince Hall Philadelphia - Phoenix Lodge #3
Sisters Returning Home
TCRC Community Healing Center
Village of Arts & Humanities
Why Not Prosper

About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site:
Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, within the long-abandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison.

Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world's first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells held approximately 80,000 men and women during its 142 years of operation, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is open for tours year-round. Admission includes “The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; award-winning exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.

In recent years, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site has been awarded the prestigious Excellence in Exhibitions award by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the nation’s highest award in exhibition development and design, for its exhibit Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, as well as the Institutional Award for Special Achievement from the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums. The Returning Citizens Tour Guide Project, which hires people who were formerly incarcerated to lead tours of the historic site, has won the EdCom Award for Innovation in Museum Education by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and has been featured internationally by such networks as the BBC and others.

For more information, visit


2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner