Joy is at the center of everything the toy industry does, or at least it should be, according to the board of The Toy Foundation. As an industry, we care about toys because a child’s happiness is immeasurable. Yet, it’s hard for a kid to feel joy if their basic needs like food and shelter aren’t met.

This is where The Toy Foundation’s vision comes in: The Toy Foundation believes in a world in which kids can experience comfort, joy, and the extraordinary physical, emotional, and educational benefits of play. Within the last few years, the Foundation has done a 180-degree turn on how it completes these goals, but joy remains at the center of it all.

“Ultimately we all got into this business for the most part because we think we understand that kids have a fundamental right to play,” says Thames & Kosmos CEO Andy Quartin, incoming Board Chair. “There are a lot of kids out there that don’t have access to toys and don’t have access to play — and joy, frankly. We’re all in a position to do something about that.”

Volunteering is just one of the ways The Toy Foundation gives back. | Source: The Toy Foundation


The Toy Foundation began as the philanthropic arm of The Toy Association. It’s made up of a board of members from across the various facets that make up the industry. Until recently, it primarily acted as a liaison between toy companies and communities in need of support. While the Foundation facilitated donations for many organizations, it couldn’t quite make the impact that its members hoped it would.

Related: The Toy Foundation, Children’s Hospital Association Reveal 2022 Grantees

“So what was the organization before?” questions Beacon Media Group’s Kathleen Campisano, incoming Board Vice Chair. “It was a guiding principle, and everybody kind of interpreted it uniquely and did their own individualistic thing and we tried to get some inertia out of that, but often it would just dissipate into some niceties and it didn’t really roll into a momentum of impact.”

Over the past few years, especially after seeing the effect the COVID-19 pandemic had on kids worldwide, the Foundation got to work on coming up with clear goals and a focused, strategic plan for achieving them.

“[The plan] creates focus and momentum,” Campisano says, “and it unites every single chairperson that these programs are kind of synergistically working around because we all share the same mission, the same vision, the same core values ­— and we rely on them and refer to them. It’s a one-sheeter so that it could fit in our pocket, and it’s an ever-present reminder of what we’re here to do.”

Divided into four sections, the plan got its start last year and will conclude in June 2025. It focuses on becoming an influential voice, strengthening the Foundation’s development and fundraising initiatives, communicating with the community, amplifying the philanthropic efforts of the toy industry, and building an effective board of directors. These, in turn, help its mission, which is to be a uniting force for the collective philanthropy of the toy industry, which it plans to accomplish through strategic partnerships, high-impact grant making, effective programming, and in-kind toy donations.

“The heart of this business is driven by two things and that’s the love of play and entrepreneurship,” Quartin says. “And those values are driving the new strategic plan.”

“The heart of this business is driven by two things and that’s the love of play and entrepreneurship,”

— Thames & Kosmos CEO Andy Quartin, incoming Board Chair.


Included in the Foundation’s new plans are five core values: compassion, integrity, collaboration, inclusion, and the power of play.
“We’ve always known that kids see themselves and their future selves first through play,” Campisano says on the importance of inclusion in particular. She notes that the industry is opening itself up to more diversity in the way toys look, and who is making them.

One way the Foundation is working to create a more diverse workforce is through its grants program, particularly through partnerships with universities. Recently, it piloted a Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion program with the University of Maryland, in which 70 students across multiple disciplines came together to work on a curriculum that included creating a diverse product or service for the toy industry.

“They were creating a doll with disabilities and a playground for children with disabilities. They were looking to get funding for play grants that supported kids that are neurodiverse in children’s hospitals,” says Pamela Mastrota, Executive Director of The Toy Foundation, “But none of these students had ever thought about the toy industry [before].”

The program continues next with the University of North Texas and then will move to other schools. Mastrota hopes that next year the students will be able to present their projects at Toy Fair, where they can learn from an esteemed panel.

When discussing the stark contrast of The Toy Foundation’s evolution, Board Chair Andy Weiner remarks, “This discussion about diversity and inclusion … It wasn’t even on the radar of the Foundation to even think about it. And what gave it life for me was trying to ensure that our Foundation board was appropriately represented with a diverse community.”

Weiner says that the Foundation realized that the industry had a responsibility to be socially conscious and create programs that would evolve to change the toy industry for the better.

The Toy Foundation works to help families in many different ways. | Source: The Toy Foundation


As it changes, The Toy Foundation keeps one value the same: collaboration. Whereas before the Foundation acted as a middle ground between toy companies and the communities they served, it now helps amplify the efforts of the “big guys” and helps the smaller companies that may not be able to donate on their own.

“The Foundation is set up to be a beacon of philanthropy for our industry,” Weiner says. It often does this through Play Grants, specifically through Children’s Hospital Play Grants, which donate money to children’s hospitals across the U.S. to help them with upgrades, as well as create play programs and kits for the kids who are staying there.

Some toy companies are big names in the towns in which their headquarters are located and donate huge amounts of time and money to their causes, but they can’t be everywhere. The Toy Foundation is set up to bring those same efforts into smaller, rural areas where the need is great.

The Toy Foundation is dedicated to amplifying the talent, time, and treasure of the industry, and another way it does this is through The Toy Bank. Its name is quite literal as it’s the donation arm, which collects toys from various areas and distributes them to those in need. Through these efforts, the Foundation was able to donate $5 million in cash and in-kind support to aid relief efforts amid the Russia-Ukraine war. This is in addition to $10 million worth of toy donations to kids in the U.S.

The board hopes that it will be able to donate even more time, toys, and money in the coming years with its strategic plan.

“We’re all in the toy industry because we have Peter Pan syndrome. Nobody wants to grow up because we’re eternal optimists,” Campisano says.

Those interested in learning more about the efforts of The Toy Foundation, and how to join them, can do so at

A version of this article was originally published in the 2023 edition of The BIG Toy BookClick here to read the full issue! Want to receive The Toy Book in print? Click here for subscription options!

About the author

Nicole Savas

Nicole Savas

As a kid, Nicole either wanted to be a professional toy player-wither or a writer. Somehow, as social media editor for The Toy Insider, The Toy Book, and The Pop Insider, she’s found a career as both. She's grateful to work somewhere that she can fully embrace both her love of teddy bears and her admiration for the Oxford comma. When she's not playing with toys at work, she's playing with her baby girl at home.