PLAYing It Forward gifts 300 games to foster care children

RaeLynn Ricarte

Making Christmas merry for children in the foster care system is even more important in 2020, when the COVID-19 crisis has changed their school experience and reduced social opportunities, says Kris Depaulo, founder of PLAYing It Forward.

“Christmas is a time when we should really recognize kids who need some help,” she said.

She formed the nonprofit in honor of her father, Dan Inman, who passed away in 2015.

“He loved Christmas and he loved kids,” she said.

DePaulo said the idea for the group came from conversations she had with a friend who was a court-appointed special advocate for children. That friend spoke of the trauma that these children often endured and DePaulo wanted to do something to help. Because foster children often get hand-me-down clothes and other used belongings, she wanted them to have something brand-new to open at Christmas.

“I wanted them to have something that no one else had owned,” she said.

Toward that end, DePaulo enlisted the help of Monty Jones, who works for the Department of Children, Youth & Families that helps at-risk teens. His wife, Shelley, a middle school teacher, also helps with the outreach, as does Lori Matlock, manager of the Northeast Washington fairgrounds.

To date, the group has collected 300 games for children of all ages that are being distributed through 13 social workers with his agency, said Monty. DePaulo said people can drop games off until Christmas Day with Matlock at the fairgrounds, 317 W. Astor Avenue, and they will get delivered to a child. Monetary donations are also welcome.

She begins shopping in October for the best sales on board games — often getting a two for one deal — to stretch dollars as far as possible. Every year there are a few new possibilities and DePaulo even scored a few this year with an agricultural component, including Long Cow, which is billed as an “udderly ridiculous card game.”

“This community is amazing and they just come together to make this work every year,” said DePaulo. Jones said delivering the gifts is his reward. “If you could just see the joy of the kids, that's what make it fun,” he said.