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When I began writing about the collapse of Toys "R" Us last summer, I had no idea just how deep the rabbit hole would go. In fact, I had no intention of writing much beyond my initial concern, and even a few months in, I was still sharing some of the public-facing statements issued by the company - that it was "business as usual" during the "restructuring." But it wasn't business as usual, and we all know what ended up happening. It's the summer of 2018, and in the United States, Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" us no longer exist. One of my most widely-shared articles was published back on March 27, and in addition to news that a group of vendors led by Crayola was gearing-up for a fight and alleging "irresponsible and potentially illegal behavior" by certain executives at Toys "R" Us, I raised another concern: that numerous charities would be taking a potentially devastating hit. This week, I received word that ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) and Good360 have stepped-up to face the challenge with the launch of TOYS FOR JOY. Even more surprising was that I was told that it was my writing that inspired the movement.

With three decades of storied history, acclaimed singer/songwriter Kevin Lee continues to inspire generations as one of the best big-hook, power pop songwriters in the business. Flanked by his incredible band, The Kings, Lee recently released Sticks & Stones on Sigus Records. With an infectious sound of modern pop/rock packed with big guitars, indelible hooks, and soaring vocal harmonies, the songs deliver the kind of car-radio magic that turn winter nights into summer bright. Tracks like “On Top of the World,” “Tell the Truth,” the Tom Petty-esque, “All We Have Is Now,” and the ultra-catchy “Hold On to Yourself Tonight,” remind you of why you loved rock and roll in the first place. Ahead of some summer live dates and an upcoming performance at Joe's Live in Rosemont, IL to benefit Lurie Children's Hospital, our writers caught up with Kevin to talk a little bit about the new album, the music business and the Chicago sound.

Published in Music News

There's 25 Wookiees in that photo above, and [SPOILER ALERT] one of them is The Rock Father™! While in Los Angeles last month, I stopped by Disney's Grand Central Creative Campus to meet with the team from Disney Consumer Products & Interactive. After taking a look at the full range of new products from Lucasfilm's Solo: A Star Wars Story, each member of my crew donned one of Party City's Chewbacca masks for a photo celebrating the launch of Roar For Change - the next initiative from Star Wars: Force for Change, presenting fans with a new global challenge in support of UNICEF. Curious how this is gonna play out and how you can do some good by showing off your best Wookiee roar? Check out the launch video below!

I feel like Denny's just played a Jedi Mind Trick on me. It's 2:25pm and I feel the urgent need for breakfast, and the fact that they've got a new menu inspired by the upcoming release of Lucasfilm's Solo: A Star Wars Story is a pretty compelling draw. You could say it's pulling me in like the Death Star's tractor beam.  While the menu alone is presenting tastes inspired by a galaxy far, far away, they're also serving-up some collectibles, and that includes exclusive Solo: A Star Wars Story trading cards from The Topps Company. And those cards are part of a mission to do some good as net proceeds from the sale of all trading card packs will benefit Denny's longtime partner, No Kid Hungry, to help kick childhood hunger into the farthest reaches of The Outer Rim. Check out a new commercial below that shows what a Star Wars cantina might be like if it were a Denny's and all the patrons were throwing down for a "Hand of Sabbac!"

Published in Food and Drink

Last year, Sesame Street broke new ground with the addition of Julia, a new Muppet with Autism. An old friend of Elmo's, Julia made her debut during World Autism Month/National Autism Awareness Month bringing with her a message - that we can "see amazing in all children." Now, as Julia celebrates one year on Sesame Street, the folks at Hasbro are bringing her into the toy aisle as a new neighbor in their Playskool mini plush line. Available now from Hasbro Toy Shop (an affiliate) and major retailers nationwide, Julia is a cuddly friend for children ages 12 months and up! See her below...

I love hearing stories about how others are doing good, and when it comes to the world of play, there's little better than hearing about the creative ways that toymakers are giving back. I wrote a little bit about that in one of my recent columns over at The Toy Insider, and today I've got another story to share - this one from a true American icon: Radio Flyer. Their iconic little red wagon has brought joy to millions of children over the last 100 years, and as they point out, those "wagons have been used to carry stuffed animals, toys, books, friends and more for countless hours of playtime" But they've also been used by children and adults alike to lift the spirits of others – and Radio Flyer is celebrating these acts of kindness in honor of National Little Red Wagon Day. With their new "Wagons for Good" sweepstakes, you could even receive a donation of 100 wagons to be given to the organization of your choice!

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