Building with LEGO, colouring with Crayola and playing with Star Wars figurines aren’t stock-standard features on a job description. Unless you’re one of the Amazon Playmakers.
For the past three years, Amazon Australia has worked with Starlight Children’s Foundation (a charity that works to brighten the lives of seriously ill and hospitalised children across the country) to put together a team of pint-sized superheroes, ready to solve the mystery of what to buy your kids for Christmas — one toy test at a time.
These 10 youngsters are the official judges for Amazon Australia’s annual Top 100 Holiday Toy List, enlisted to test and rate an array of games, gadgets, dolls and everything in-between. But while it’s a dream come true for any Aussie kid, the opportunity is even more special for the Amazon Playmakers and their families.
Playtime as therapy
Outside of their role as toy testers, these kids are tackling their own challenges daily. So, for the likes of eight-year-old Dale from Fullerton, South Australia, getting to indulge in playtime from his hospital room is a dream come true.
“He’s spent so long watching other kids play, while he can’t,” says Dale’s mum Alex. “So, when the toys arrived from Amazon Australia, he was beaming from ear to ear and was absolutely ecstatic!”
Born with serious medical issues, Dale has spent most of his childhood in and out of hospital, facing challenges, uncertainty, and isolation. But when the going gets tough, toys have always come to the rescue.
“Toys are a really great way for Dale to interact with others because he isn’t physically capable of keeping up with sports and other kids activities,” explains Alex. “They give him a good sense of security, when he’s feeling anxious or unsettled, too.”
Dreaming in colour
If testing the latest crop of toys wasn’t exciting enough, this year the Amazon Playmakers were also asked to dream big, and think up their ultimate toy concepts — concepts which have been immortalised by renowned artist, Mitch Revs, in an original colouring book — the first ever Amazon Playmakers Holiday Colouring Book.
Over a virtual catch-up with the Newcastle-based illustrator, these big thinking youngsters shared their favourite colours, memories, hobbies, and interests, to help inspire the direction of the book.
“The artwork concepts evolved through conversations with the children and I was fortunate enough to be able to create these designs based on their wild imaginations,” he says.
It’s more than a colouring book. It’s a story — a story about the emotions, experiences and the personalities of these kids.”
For every Amazon Playmakers Holiday Colouring book that is purchased during this year's Black Friday and Cyber Monday Shopping Events, Amazon Australia will donate $1 to Starlight*, in addition to $40,000 worth of toys, games, crafts and gift cards for Starlight’s hospital rooms.
Janet Menzies, Country Manager of Amazon Australia said, “The Amazon Playmakers have one of the most important tasks of the holiday season, reviewing our top 100 toys to help families across the country with their holiday shopping across Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
“I’ve been so impressed with the added role they’ve taken on this year, and they’ve come up with some incredibly, creative toy concepts for the Amazon Playmakers Holiday Colouring book. We’re proud to support and deliver smiles to the Playmakers and the Starlight Children’s Foundation these Holidays.”
Giving these superheroes an early mark on the holiday season and a creative voice is something Mitch will never forget.
“No one should have to go through what these kids are enduring,” he says. “And most of them don’t even let on that they have anything going on, they all put on a brave face. So, it was incredible to give them the gift of creativity as an outlet.
Gifts for Good
Before the rest of the country starts scratching their heads wondering what to buy their kids this holiday season, the Playmaker parents are calling on Aussie families to get in early when the Amazon Playmakers Holiday Colouring Book goes on sale just in time for the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events.
“The book wasn’t just an incredible opportunity for Dale and the other kids to get creative,” says Alex. “But it’s also a chance for Aussies to give back to children that really need some support.”
Working with the Amazon Playmakers to bring this colouring book to life is all part of Starlight’s work to bring them happiness in a time when they need it most.
“All of the kids that are Amazon Playmakers have a serious illness,” explains Starlight’s NSW Partnership Executive, Elle Dawe. “Which means they’re often isolated and spending weeks or months in hospital at a time.
“Regardless of what they’re dealing with, at the crux of it, they are just normal children, children that want to play and have fun.”
“Amazon has gone beyond just making a donation,” continues Elle. “They’ve created a campaign designed to get our kids involved, to give them respite from their illnesses, to put them in the spotlight, and to help make them feel important — that’s what makes this extra special.”
The Amazon Playmakers Holiday Colouring Book is available during the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events.
The full downloadable Amazon Playmakers Top 100 Holiday Toy List can be viewed HERE
*50,000 copies of the Amazon Playmakers Holiday Colouring book will be made available.
Even if not sold, Amazon has agreed a total donation of $50,000.