Chicago Toy Store Urges Customers to ‘Play It Forward’

Ann Kienzle’s Chicago neighborhood toy shops have been as “open” as they can be. 

The owner of *play in Lincoln Park, Logan Square and Andersonville has become a personal shopper, fielding calls from customers looking for the perfect birthday present, “thinking of you” gifts and more. Then she ships packages out or stays open for curbside pickup. 

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She is in one of her shops about four hours each day as she schedules calls and pickups.

When a lot of parents started ordering “supplies” that would help support home schooling or entertain kids stuck inside, the idea hit her: “There are so many kids where school is their refuge, and now that they’re home, they don’t have that support, they don’t have that extra stuff.” 

From that need, *play it forward was born. 

Customers wanting to help during COVID relief, but that don’t know what to do can buy a $25 box that will be sent to a Chicago child in need. For every two boxes purchased, *play is donating a third. 

In the meantime, Kienzle says she has had customers and friends reach out to tell her about kids they know who are in need. 

With that list, and from her contacts at nonprofits and schools around Logan Square, Andersonville and Lincoln Park, Kienzle will then learn where to send the boxes. In the first weekend, she sold 30 boxes.

Each box will be packed with supplies perfect for the age range of the child receiving the box.

“If it’s a younger kid, they need books, coloring books, crayons, anything we can get to them that is perfect for PreK,” she says. “If there’s a specific need, we’ll try to work with that as much as we can for that child.” 

You can buy a $25 box at For every two boxes sold, the store will donate a third.

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