The Future of The Toy Foundation: A Q&A with Executive Director Pamela Mastrota
August 3, 2021 | Last month, The Toy Foundation (TTF) welcomed Pamela Mastrota as its new executive director. Toy News Tuesday (TNT) editors recently caught up with her to discuss her new role and the ongoing evolution of TTF and its charitable programs.
TNT: Tell us bit about your background and how you plan to translate it into your new role with TTF?
Mastrota: I’ve spent the better part of the last two decades helping scale non-profit organizations, particularly in terms of their charitable impact as well as their programming. In my most recent role as COO for Make-A-Wish Metro NY & Western NY, where I led operations, I helped grow the number of volunteers in underserved communities by 180 percent and reduced the wait time from two years to seven months to fulfill children’s wishes. My strategic and fundraising track record and experience generating revenue in the private and nonprofit sectors in particular will immediately impact growth of The Toy Foundation’s new pediatric hospital grant program, which begins by collaborating with Association members, driving new corporate giving initiatives, and strengthening and establishing charitable foundation relationships to support, strengthen and advance the Foundation’s mission.
TNT: Child’s Play is one of the newest initiatives for TTF. Can you provide a brief overview of the program and plans to drive it forward?
Mastrota: Play benefits the physical and emotional well-being of children everywhere, but especially those enduring daily and dire stressful situations. Being in a hospital setting – whether for medical procedures, life-threatening illnesses and/or injuries, is one such situation. Not only does it take a physical toll on children but a mental and emotional toll as well, and the COVID-19 pandemic only compounded the need for therapeutic play in hospitals, especially those in underserved communities.
By teaming up with the Children’s Hospital Association, our new signature program, The Child’s Play: Grants for Play Projects, is helping alleviate some of those stressors for children and families and fund the innovative play projects needed in children’s hospitals across the country.
Through these grants, hospital professionals are creating play-based and sensory-sensitive play opportunities for pediatric ER waiting areas for children experiencing trauma; enhancing their existing mobile-sensory playrooms to aid children with autism, behavioral, and intellectual and developmental disabilities; and incorporating medical play into hospital settings to help patients cope and better mentally prepare for medical treatments.
The first round of grant recipients were announced earlier this year, and we encourage other children’s hospitals within the Children’s Hospital Association network to request grant funding for their own initiatives.
TNT: Can you share any details about The Toy Foundation’s plans to launch an industry-wide diversity & inclusion (D&I) initiative?
Mastrota: We are grateful to have Ellen Lambert, TTF’s former interim executive director and the former chief diversity officer at PSEG, stay on in an advisory role to help spearhead the development of new D&I programming that will benefit the entire play community.
Following the establishment of a new TTF D&I Committee, planning sessions, and a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) ideas lab held by the committee in June, initial steps to make the programming a reality are already underway. This includes the adoption of an official D&I Commitment statement by TTF’s Board of Directors and identifying four principal areas of industry-wide DEI work (leadership, education/training, talent development, and communication). More details will follow but be on the lookout for fundraising efforts to support many of the planned programming, including an industry-wide internship program for interested Toy Association members. In September, The Toy Association’s original D&I Committee will join forces with the Foundation’s D&I Committee to move plans and projects forward as a group.
TNT: Nominations for the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards has officially open. The awards program has always served as a critical fundraiser for the work of the Foundation, but how are communications shifting to better reflect this?
Mastrota: The TOTYs have long supported the philanthropic work of The Toy Foundation as its most important fundraising event, however that messaging hasn’t always taken center stage. Moving forward, this will be something we hope to better convey both in terms of all forward-looking communications and at the gala itself by positioning it as the Foundation’s program.
TNT: What’s up next for TTF?
Mastrota: Right now, our annual summer toy drive is underway, so if you haven’t made a donation yet to the Toy Bank, we encourage you to reach out to TTF’s Director of Strategic Foundation Partnerships & Programs Elizabeth Max. This year’s drive had us partnering with several children’s charities, including the First Responders Children’s Foundation's Power of Play initiative, which is transforming play spaces within New York City Housing Authority public housing and donating truckloads of free sports equipment to children in those communities. We are also looking ahead to our annual toy collection at Toy Fair Dallas, with more details on that to follow.
I am extremely excited to begin my new role and contribute to promoting play and providing joy and comfort to children all over the world! I’d also like to invite all members of the toy community to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, whether it’s to answer a question or simply to chat. I’d love to hear from you!
For additional information on TTF’s other ongoing programming, visit toyfoundation.org.