NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Over a stretch of nearly 70 years, Geoffrey the Giraffe at Toys R Us stores was the symbol of happy times for generations of children, and now he may provide those same feelings for children coming to a hospital.
"From this day forward, Geoffrey stands tall in our lobby to encourage our smallest patients to smile when they enter our facilities," said John Gantner, president and CEO of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, during a ceremony at Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital.
"We never loose sight of the fact that pediatric patients are children first and are physically and emotionally different from adult patients," Gantner said. The hope, he said, is to help children "forget momentarily the ailment that brought them here, to set aside their fears and to remind them that there are better times ahead."
Toys R Us, the iconic Wayne-base company, announced in March that it would liquidate all of its stores.
In the ceremony today unveiling the 16-foot, 4-inch statue, Gantner thanked Joseph Malfitano, an attorney who assisted Toys R Us in the closing. When there was no offer to acquire the store mascot, Malfitano and his staff came up with the plan to donate it to a children's hospital.
Gantner said Jack Morris, chairman of Robert Wood Johnson board of Trustees, was contacted about the statue being available. The hospital quickly accepted, and attorney Kenneth Rosen, a member of the hospital corporate board, paid for the cost of shipping the 550-pound fiberglass statue.
"Thanks to these three individuals, Geoffrey has a new home here," Gantner said.
He noted that the mascot originally had a different name.
"One of the facts I learned was that Geoffrey’s original name was Dr. G. Raffe. So it seems only fitting and perhaps a little ironic that Dr. G. Raffe move to a hospital in this next stage of his career," Gantner said.