Handmade happiness - Tucson Local Media: Explore The Holidays

Handmade happiness

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Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 9:30 am

Earlier this month, Rudy Poklar was in the Sun City Vistoso community’s wood shop with a can of light blue latex spray paint. In front of him sat nearly 20 wooden toy helicopters that he had built over the past year. The main and tail rotor pieces had already been painted red. On this day, he was spraying the front window on each helicopter’s cockpit.

Poklar wasn’t recreating a toy-sized personal squadron, but like many other members of the Seniors For Kids group, he was making toys to be handed out to children early in December.

Some of the other members, like Larry Millica, have been part of the group, which has been building toys for kids for the past 15 years. Millica’s forte has been making race cars.

The toys are distributed to University Medical Center, Northwest Birthing Center, and Tucson Medical Center throughout the year. But, the big donation is in December, just in time for the holidays, where they donate to a dozen different charities around Tucson.

This group of toymakers isn’t just about wooden toys. The females in the group, like Jan Tomlinson, make intricate and unique stuffed animals and puppets of all different shapes, sizes and colors.

The members of the group don’t do it for money, it is all donated, and they don’t do it for the recognition.  

“The whole process gives people, number one, something to do. They are socializing with their friends,” Tomlinson said. “And, you are helping others. The gratitude you are receiving from your contribution is probably the best gift to others.

“The feeling you get inside, it’s just such a warm feeling of gratitude to see the kids,” Tomlinson added.

One of those moments in Tomlinson’s mind is still just as vivid as it was when it happened five years ago.

She recalls giving a stuffed bear, that one of the group member’s made from scratch, to a little boy in the hospital.

“This bear was better than any bear you could buy in the store,” said a teary-eyed Tomlinson. “We went in, and this little boy had been in bed for a very long time, and I handed him the bear and he just hugged it. He was just one of those little guys you see and you hate to see them in the hospital.”

Sometimes, the toys the Seniors For Kids make are the children’s first toys.

“There has been more than one time that the toys we would give to a child in the hospital is the first toy they ever received,” Millica said. “We have even had parents who never received a toy when they were a child. They are just happy that their son or daughter received a toy during Christmas time.”

For group member Lauren Strassburg, who has been building toys for kids for 10 years, really enjoys the process of making his toys.

So far this year, Strassburg has made a number of old-fashioned looking cars along with a semi-truck. Now, he is focusing his efforts to create a motor grader.

When it comes to his projects, Strassburg works on one at a time with all kinds of different woods.

“I like to work with exotic wood,” Strassburg. “Just for the personal satisfaction. It’s exciting for me.”

Seniors for Kids is a group of about 40 people who make toys, stuffed animals and blankets for kids through out the year. Group members also refurbish bikes and refurbish computers throughout the year.

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