by PAMELA MASTROTA, Executive Director, The Toy Foundation
Enthusiasm is building for the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards — the must-have ticket to kickoff Toy Fair! In addition to announcing the toy industry’s prestigious award winners, guests will be wowed with an exclusive performance from Grammy Award-winning artist Wyclef Jean; an auction of standout products and experiences; a cocktail reception to catch up with friends and colleagues; and more. The best part? All of this fun is for a great cause supporting The Toy Foundation (TTF) in its efforts to deliver the extraordinary benefits of play to children in need.
Event proceeds support TTF’s three program areas which unite the philanthropy of the toy industry and create a greater impact. As YOUR Foundation, our signature Toy Bank program has delivered toys to 31 million children around the world since 2003. As the industry’s partner in managing excess inventory and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, we pick up product donations and place them into the hands of deserving children year-round. One of our biggest collections of the year is at Toy Fair, and donating the toys and games from your exhibit at the close of this year’s event will support more than 50,000 children in the New York City area.
Extending the industry’s impact to children’s hospitals that serve communities of the greatest need, as well as in response to emergency situations, our Play Grants program has funded the power of play for 360,000 hospitalized children since 2021. A new playroom at Spence and Becky Wilson Baptist Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, bedside medical play equipment at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in Bronx, New York City, and inclusive and diverse toys at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago are a just a few of the 2023 projects that are helping children express themselves while serving as a positive distraction during procedures, and supporting continued learning and development when they’re not in the classroom. We are eager to rally the industry at the TOTY Awards to provide pledges of $5,000, $10,000, and $20,000 to reach even more children.
To support the industry in becoming more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI), our DEI Pipeline Program offers companies opportunities to connect with talented university students of varied backgrounds and educational focuses. Through virtual meetings and in-person events, companies can hear the students’ insights on DEI within the industry, share their own philanthropic and CSR work, and potentially hire for internships and entry-level positions. At the TOTY Awards and Toy Fair, you will have opportunities to engage students through a series of DEI activities, networking meetups, and recruitment opportunities.
We look forward to uniting small, medium, and large companies at the TOTY Awards to further the impact of each of these programs, and we’re pulling out all the stops to make that happen. You will be greeted with excitement at the high-powered networking cocktail reception full of fun activities. The reception will flow into the awards naming the very best toys, people, and campaigns in the industry, and a special tribute to the icons being inducted into the Hall of Fame. To end the night on the highest note, Fugees legend Wyclef Jean will give an exclusive performance of pop-culture favorites like “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”
Playing — in my case music — was incredibly important for me to build respect as a child. So, I’m delighted to help The Toy Foundation deliver that same power of play to tens of thousands of children who need our help to find their voice.”
Throughout the night and into Toy Fair, attendees can bid on standout and one-of-a-kind auction items. Expected to be the most popular auction item, Wyclef Jean has pledged backstage access and an opportunity to join him onstage during a future performance.
The TOTY Awards will take place Friday, Sept. 29 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City.
Tickets are available at TOTYAwards.org.
A version of this article originally appeared in the 2023 TOTY issue of The Toy Book. Click here to read the issue, and click here to subscribe!