Toy Foundation’s Play Grants Program Deepens Industry’s Commitment to Deliver the Healing Power of Play

March 7, 2023 | Now in its third year, The Toy Foundation’s (TTF) Children’s Hospital Play Grants program is calling on the support and engagement from companies of all sizes to help broaden and deepen the toy industry’s commitment to deliver the healing power of play to children in pediatric care.

Connected with more than 220 children’s hospitals nationwide, the program provides financial grants and toys to support play therapy projects at hospitals serving underserved communities. In addition to offering the comfort and joy of play to children and their families, the play therapy programs show measurable improvement in patient well-being, care, and treatment outcomes and in hospital employee satisfaction.

“For children who are hospitalized, access to play can be monumental in offering hope and friendship when they need it most,” said John Gessert, president and CEO of American Plastic Toys and chair of The Toy Foundation’s Children’s Hospital Committee. ”Last year, Play Grants distributed more than $385,000 in grants to 19 children’s hospitals nationwide to develop play therapy projects that help address mental and behavioral health needs; long wait times for care; implementation of diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) personnel trainings and pediatric care tools; and much more. We expect to impact an estimated 185,000 children in 2023.”

The industry’s collective philanthropy helps TTF reach children and hospitals at a scale companies cannot do alone. If your organization is interested in funding the program, lending volunteer support, or committing to a toy donation, please contact TTF’s Erin Wright.

Among this year’s recipients is the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital, the state’s only dedicated children’s hospital, which strives to normalize the hospital experience for the diverse population of children and families it serves. Its grant will allow the hospital to provide sensory kits — inclusive of fidget spinners, stress cushions, emoji emotion charts, and other items — to children of all ages and all abilities to help reduce fear and anxiety, and allow for a more comfortable stay.

“Those comfort kits will allow staff to build rapport with the children immediately and let them know we are here to help,” said Ana Bacon, child life director of University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital. “Providing something of comfort will allow them to still be a child during a difficult situation.”

The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, another 2023 grant recipient, is using its grant to support the creation of diverse and inclusive play materials for its pediatric patients, as well as provide DEI training for volunteer staff. Recent hospital data shows that about 90% of the donated toys received by the hospital are primarily geared toward white, English-speaking, cis-gender, and heteronormative patients and families. This underrepresents and misrepresents the patients served and providing toys, books, and activities representative of varying cultures, languages, and family systems will help the children and families feel seen, valued, and comforted.

“We are so grateful to receive this grant from the Play Grants program,” said Nicole Alkaraki, manager of children’s services at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “We know play is essential in teaching children how to develop social and emotional awareness and learn social values like compassion and inclusivity. This becomes especially important in improving the well-being and self-esteem of children during hospital stays. This grant helps us ensure that patients see themselves in our programming and in providing a more inclusive and equitable environment for our patients and their families through play.”

The children’s hospitals will carry out their play therapy projects throughout the year with continual opportunities for the toy industry to get involved. If you or your company are interested in getting involved or have your own children’s hospital initiative to partner around, please reach out to TTF’s Erin Wright. Together, the industry can generate a greater impact in delivering the benefits of play to children in need.

To learn more about The Toy Foundation, visit