The creator of the board game Operation needed his own operation, and it turned out he couldn't afford to pay for it.
So John Spinello's friends decided to raise the money for him online. Now, they've been able to raise enough money to help Spinello pay for the surgery as well as some other bills.
Spinello, 77, of Bloomingdale, Illinois, invented the buzzing game of precision in the early 1960s as an industrial design student at the University of Illinois. He sold the concept for $500 to a toy inventor who later licensed it to Milton Bradley.
Never got any royalties
It went on to be very successful, with merchandise and different versions of games sold worldwide. But because of the deal he struck, he never got any royalties, something that's not unusual for game-makers unsure of how well a game might do.
Fast forward decades later, and Spinello and his wife ended up filing for bankruptcy after their warehouse business went under during the recession. Recently, he found out he needed oral surgery to fix his teeth at a cost of $25,000. That's on top of other outstanding bills he has.
Peggy Brown and Tim Walsh, his friends and fellow game inventors, decided to raise money for him through the crowd funding site www.crowdrise.com .
"I think assumptions are made that inventors make a lot of money off these kinds of things and in this case, it's just really not so," said Brown, of Milwaukee.
'You can't put a price on it'
As of Friday, more than $30,000 had been raised online, along with $15,000 through other means — by selling games signed by Spinello and through other donations. The online campaign began Oct. 22.
Hasbro, which now owns Milton Bradley, is also pitching in. It plans to buy Spinello's original prototype and put it on display at its global headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Neither Spinello nor Hasbro would comment on the price.
Spinello, who still owns the patent to the game, is overwhelmed by the support. "You can't put a price on it," he said Friday.
Spinello said he got the idea for Operation as a child when he stuck a safety pin in an outlet and got shocked.
Brown said that besides helping out her friend, she wanted to get him some recognition for his work.