Dan Klitsner: A Tribute to My Dad, the Father of Play, and the Voice of Sling It Lore!

&nbsp &nbsp This was the first Father's Day without my wonderfully fun, ever supportive, unconditionally loving, prototype testing, game-playing Dad, who passed a few months ago at the playful age of 97.&nbspPlayful was how he related to everyone - inviting you into his effortlessly positive world with a sparkle in his eye no matter if he just met you, if you were an old friend, (or especially if you were his lucky son). If he was in the room, it was always fun. As many of my friends in the toy industry know, my dad was also a huge influence on my love of games, sense of play and my insistence on writing cringy parody songs for their birthdays and special occasions. (My parent’s were both on Broadway in the 50’s and I grew up surrounded by theater and musicals - so singing at family gatherings was always required). &nbsp During the last few years, I had the honor of caring for my dad, so we spent a lot of time playing games. Our favorite was cribbage. We played at least twice a week, and his mind was still sharp - (a little too sharp as he still beat me most of the time!) He was also always my most trusted play tester for my new game concepts - patiently trying to understand my often convoluted, ever-changing rules or help me video the foam core mock-up that became Bop It.&nbspI would often bring prototypes over and get his astute, honest opinions and always excellent suggestions. During that period at KID Group we started working on an idea for a quirky backyard game called “Sling It” which was kind of like “Corn Hole meets Axe Throwing”.&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp It involved trying to sling unusually long bean bags in between vertical slots, where the sausage-shaped bags would wedge with a&nbsp“Thwack”!&nbspWhat made the game play especially competitive was that at the end of each round, you only scored if you were the “top dog” in the slot.&nbsp &nbsp Since my father was 96 and needing a walker to even stand, I didn’t think it was a good candidate for his play-testing expertise,&nbspbut as I was growing up, we loved playing a lot of ping-pong and horse shoes and other games in the backyard so I brought a rough prototype. Lo and behold, supporting himself with his walker with one hand and slinging with the other, he nailed his first shot! &nbsp &nbsp He grinned and said “ That is really satisfying!” And threw another. “Thwack”!&nbspAnother great shot, another big smile&nbsp- “Wow, I love the sound!” It was a great insight - what makes this genre of physical games so fun and sustainable is often the unique sounds!&nbspSo key to the satisfying feeling of hitting a ping pong ball or ringing a horseshoe is the sound it makes- much like the pickleball “Whack” has proven addictive for those that play - (if not always for those that hear it!) &nbsp After a few more slings we were also having a good laugh making “sausage jokes” and he asked “ Son, how did you come up with this idea again?” .&nbspWell… sometimes it’s hard to say why a certain idea pops into one’s head, and though I could give a long story about all the trial and error iterations of the physical game itself, the question remained…why Sausages?&nbsp &nbsp Shortly after it was time for his nap, and while he was sleeping I thought that, in the spirit of my theatrical dad, perhaps what this game really needed was a more… “entertaining” back story! Now it just so happens that I was in Mallorca a few weeks earlier for a bike trip, and if you’ve been there you probably know that you can’t miss the ubiquitous, highly photogenic “Sobrasada” sausages. &nbsp &nbsp While he was asleep, I spent a few hours doing some photoshop "research" to incorporate a bit of lore about sausage slinging festivals in&nbspmedieval Mallorca. &nbsp Now it also just so happens that my dad was also a professional narrator and had done many radio ads as well - So I started to write a script for him to narrate that went even deeper into the explanation of what inspired this sausage slinging concept.&nbspWhen he awoke I asked if he could read it. I hope you enjoy the result as much as he and I enjoyed recording it!&nbspI decided to incorporate it into our Kickstarter as a tribute to my dad’s incredible voice talent, humor and most of all , the playfulness he so generously bestowed on his grateful, proud son. &nbsp Happy Father’s Day to my dear dad and life-long friend Stu - my father of play!&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp More Thank Yous: &nbsp Thank you to my incredible partners Brian Clemens and Gary Levenberg for always supporting me and my time with my father. &nbsp A HUGE thank you to Mary for letting me share this story !&nbsp &nbsp And a special Thank you Dougal Grimes for also lending your voice to make this project twice as special and even more fun!&nbspI couldn’t imagine having another actor become the “Voice of Sling It” after my dad&nbsppassed -&nbspbut then…you’re not really an actor…you’re a superstar! (See the KS video below to hear Dougal!) &nbsp And Thanks to all of you who have been so supportive on backing this passion project Kickstarter! Thanks for continuing to spread the word -&nbsp here’s the link for those who would like to back it -&nbsponly a week left ! ) &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp

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Greg Ahearn, President & CEO of The Toy Association: The Future is Bright

&nbsp Since joining The Toy Association, it has been an incredible few weeks of connecting with colleagues, both old and new, as I re-engage with this incredible community. I’ve been inspired and energized by the conversations about the potential of our industry and what’s to come! &nbsp I’d like to thank Andy Keimach, who did an outstanding job leading The Toy Association through transition. Like Andy, I plan to continue listening and taking to heart what you need from your trade association – whether you have been in the industry for decades, or your company is just emerging, our aim is to foster unity and collaboration that will help shape the future of toys and play. &nbsp The LA Fall Preview is a major opportunity for the industry to come together. To help companies of all sizes take part, The Toy Association has organized a location in El Segundo (the unofficial LA toy district) to showcase their 2025 lines. Companies representing almost every category of product will be engaging representatives from retail, licensing, and other adjacent industries throughout September, with a dedicated market week slated for Monday, September 9th through Friday, September 13th. You can learn more about the LA Fall Preview here and view the current list of participants (and make appointments with participants) here. While the LA Fall Preview is first and foremost about building your business, the dedicated market week also brings festive events to deepen your relationships while celebrating play as an industry. Kicking off the week is “Party with a Purpose,” The Toy Foundation’s fundraiser for children’s hospitals. Hosted at TAO Los Angeles on the evening of Monday, September 9th, the event will bring the industry together for great food and special programming, including entertainment from a Grammy-winning artist (to be announced soon) and an exciting auction of unique items and experiences. Best of all, proceeds from ticket sales (which are tax-deductible) and the auction will help bring play therapy resources to children’s hospitals across the country.&nbspTicket sales are open – you can get yours here. &nbsp The following evening, on Tuesday, September 10th, The Toy Association is hosting a free come-one, come-all networking party at Otis College of Art & Design. If you are in LA at that time, and you are in the toy business, you won’t want to miss it. You’ll enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres, get to explore the Otis studios, and see where the college’s toy design students bring their innovative toy creations to life. Tickets are complimentary, but you should still register in advance, so click here to reserve your spot. &nbsp To cap off the week, WiT’s Wonder Women Awards will be held the evening of Friday, September 13th at the iconic Beverly Hilton! It is an amazing opportunity to celebrate the remarkable achievements of women across our great industry. Tickets can be purchased here. &nbsp The future is bright with many good things on the horizon. The Toy Association has great aspirations for our industry, and we are here to support you every step of the way. I plan to continue reaching out across the toy business over the next several weeks for input, but I also encourage you to reach out if you have ideas for how we can better serve you (or if you simply want to connect and catch up!). I can always be reached at gahearn@toyassociation.org. And I hope to see many of you this fall in LA!

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A Bug is a flaw, error, or issue in a product.

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Tait & Lily, Inventors of Betcha Can't!