Innovate LI, Innovator of the year winner, 2018
Innovator of the Year: Joan Bucchino
The skinny: Straight from the Heartbreak to Heroism file, as mom turns personal tragedy into inspirational hope
Joan Bucchino would like to introduce you to Amazing Grace, the angelic inspiration behind SMARTgame. Bucchino, who lost her 13-year-old daughter Grace to the rare metabolic disorder Sanfilippo syndrome in 2014, is the creator of the game, a series of pay-it-forward challenges designed to empower youngsters while promoting kind and healthy habits – highly useful for any child.
As president and strategic director of Huntington-based J. Grace Corp., the heartfelt entrepreneur works to bridge the gap between homes, schools and communities by empowering young children with successful habits. It all revolves around SMARTgame, a powerful and versatile tool designed to teach young children (ages 4 to 11) to make productive choices independently and consistently.
The game harnesses the power of play, imagination, community and nature to work on players’ foundational levels to protect them from future problems of the mind, body and spirit. It involves different challenges played over a course of days or even weeks, including the fruit-and-veggie-focused Five Each Day game, Fit Kids USA – daring kids to complete 60 minutes of daily physical activity – Read It, Write It, Rock It, which leads players down a literary path, Math is a Blast! and "Let's be Friends." The popular Love My Planet challenge, and Let's GO with STEAM include seedlings to plant.
The whole idea, according to Bucchino, is to customize the playability to meet each player’s individual needs while keeping the whole class together, working as a team to achieve goals – essential ingredients when working to create better habits among society’s youngest (and most impressionable) members. Themed games are aligned to Common Core Standards.
“Children are our teachers in many ways,” the innovator said. “I learned how to change the behaviors of thousands of kids at a time, just by watching my little daughter, who couldn't even speak.”