How Play is Helping Sick Children Cope: TOTY Awards to Highlight Play Grants Program

July 26, 2022 | The Toy Foundation (TTF) created the Children’s Hospital Play Grants program to bring the healing power and extraordinary benefits of play to children in hospital settings throughout the U.S. Now entering its second year, TTF is happy to share the overwhelmingly positive response from the program’s first year and outline the new play projects TTF will fund in 2022 during the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards on September 20 at the Dallas Market Center. Tickets for the TOTYs are now on sale.

Baylor, Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center (McLane Children’s) in Texas is one of 18 children’s hospitals that received a grant in 2021 to implement play activities and improve pediatric patient care. Kathleen Campisano, global chief marketing officer & general manager of Beacon Media Group and chair of TTF’s Children’s Hospital Committee, recently spoke with Tina Ulanowski, child life manager at McLane Children’s, to discuss the importance of this program and how it has benefited their patients.



McLane Children’s grant focused on underserved children with severe sensory issues, allowing its team of child life specialists to purchase the appropriate toys and educate staff on how to create a safe, calm, and fun environment during medical procedures. A positive response was seen immediately from the children, their parents, and the staff; procedures took less time, had a higher completion rate, and there was improved cooperation throughout.

“We had a 5-year-old in for an MRI and we had not been able to complete the procedure before,” said Ulanowski. “This time, we gave him a glitter ball to squeeze, and it was as if he was completely unaware that the MRI – what had scared him before – was going on. We didn’t have to use other interventions and the family was able to get the medical answers they needed. Plus, he got to keep the toy.”

Undergoing complicated medical procedures, facing life-threatening illnesses and injuries, and feeling isolated and helpless are common experiences for children and their families in hospital settings. Grant funding is critical to delivering play-related projects and activities that can help relieve this stress and have an overall positive impact on children’s well-being.

“An interesting learning and success of our grant is parents have watched how we use the toys and incorporated our methods into their everyday homecare,” added Ulanowski.

The opportunities to deliver the power of play to children are endless, and TTF looks forward to reflecting on the work accomplished and work left to be done, alongside representatives from McLane Children’s, during the upcoming TOTY Awards.

The TOTY Awards will take place on day one of The Toy Association’s Preview & Holiday Market at the Dallas Market Center. For more information, visit

The Awards are a key fundraiser for TTF and its programs, including Children’s Hospitals Play Grants. For more information about this program and to donate, visit

TTF is accepting grant applications from children’s hospitals for 2022/2023 play-related projects through August 9, 2022. Questions and completed applications can be sent to