Saturday, August 15, 2015

OPERATION: Operation!

What a ride. Fellow game inventor Peggy Brown and I launched a Crowdrise campaign for John in October, not really knowing what to expect. He needed an operation he couldn’t afford and we were in a position to help. So we set a goal of raising $25,000 for him and believed that we’d get there. Yet afterwards, we were all left feeling grateful, exhausted and reeling with the thought, “Did that really happen?"

After the Huffington Post broke the news, other media outlets picked up on it and soon John’s story was unfolding on Good Morning America, Inside Edition, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. John flew to L.A. to appear on The Doctors.Within 9 days the campaign raised the $25,000 and didn’t stop until it topped $32,000! Hasbro, who quietly supported the campaign from the start, came forward and agreed to buy John’s original prototype to Operation, the one he sold for $500 to a toy development firm in 1964. The New York Times called. NBC Nightly News covered the story a second time and The Today Show came to John’s house. We heard from thousands of people all over the world who love Operation. Over 1,200 people donated and wrote to John to thank him for the fun. Some wrote to thank him for the inspiration:
"I guess I really enjoyed honing my skills on that board game. I’m currently a Clinical Professor of Surgery at Northwestern University Medical School…still trying to avoid that buzzer!!! Thanks for all the joy you’ve provided, all the careers you’ve launched, and (this is not a stretch!), all the lives you’ve probably saved."

“I played with it for hours on end! Today I am a nurse with grown children of my own… the game sparked my curiosity in science and learning, which eventually set me on the path to choosing healthcare as a profession.”

“I remember playing your game…and wondering what it would really be like to be a doctor. I’m now a straight A student pursuing my dream of becoming a doctor. I’m eternally grateful.”

“Thanks to you my brother and I decided to be doctors (it was the first gift my mother gave to him in Italy and then I played too!), and he works as a surgeon in Italy and I work in NY!”

“My sister and I played your game countless times growing up. As it turned out, maybe you had an influence on us because we are now both doctors!”

“Everyone in the medical field–myself included–have [your] creation to thank, for sparking the flame in us!”
How we play and what we play with as kids effects who we become. The Power of Play is a main theme of the film, and it’s a conviction worth spreading. In what we've shot so far, John learns that the game he invented has touched many more people, in many more ways, than he could have ever imagined.

Thanks again for considering to help us fund the film at:

Seize the Play!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Dear John...

I first met John Spinello in 2004 when I was researching my book, Timeless Toys. Listed at the bottom of the 1965 Operation game I owned was "US PATENT No. 3,333,846" I had crossed paths with the name Marvin Glass many times in my research on toys, so too the name Gunnars Licitis, but who was this John O. Spinello?

I looked up all the John Spinellos I could find in the Chicago area. "I'm looking for the inventor of Operation..." was my opening line. In just a few calls I found my man.

Turns out, John sold the rights to his game to Marvin Glass for $500 and the promise of a job upon his graduation from the University of Illinois. He got the $500. Marvin Glass & Associates licensed the game to Milton Bradley, which in turn modified it with the surgery theme we recognize today. In 1965, Operation, the "skill game where you're the doctor" was released. It was an immediate hit.

Over the years John and I stayed in touch. In 2008 when Director Ken Sons and I set out to make Toyland, our documentary film on toy and game inventors, I knew John and his story had to be a part of it. Ken and I flew up to Chicago with our small crew and spent the day with John and his wife, Madeline. After several hours and several courses of the best Italian food ever,  our friendship was secured. We shared a love of toys and family. Over the years I've met John's kids and grandkids and through every interaction I've ever had with him, I was always struck by his positivity. He was never bitter over the raw deal he got from Marvin Glass and instead, focused on the joy the game brought people and his legacy. Here's John's segment from Toyland, filmed in 2008.

John has come upon some tough times and could use help covering some medical biils. Fellow game inventor Peggy Brown and I have launched a website and have planned an upcoming Crowdrise campaign for John. We're asking you to send John a $3 thank you for giving so many of us, so much joy over the years. Or simply offer him some encouragement by writing him a Dear John letter. Please head here to learn more:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Vertical Marketing

There's a man in a tree in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

We didn't notice him right away. It was the white cup that first got our attention. We were walking along the other side of the street when this thing on a string caught the sun and then our eye. "Is that a bird feeder?" I asked my wife. "It's hanging kind of low, isn't it?" she responded.

We walked closer and heard the music at the same time. Looking in that direction and seeing no one, we were puzzled. Then it dawned on us, "There's a guitar player in that tree and that's his tip cup."

We smiled and continued our window shopping. His exceptionally different approach won me over, and before we headed back to the car, I had to cross the street and see for myself.

"Hello, there!" I called. He was way up there, sitting on a branch like he'd been there many times before. It seemed too intrusive to take his picture, so we just listened for a bit. 

There's a man in a tree in Black Mountain, North Carolina. He has my admiration and two more bucks.

Seize the Play!

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