Volunteer toymakers make hospital stays playful for children
By SUE QUIGLEY
Being admitted to hospital can be very scary for children, especially for younger children who don’t understand why they have to stay in the hospital and away from home.
To help make a child’s hospital stay less frightening, a group of local volunteers is helping our smallest patients by making simple wooden toys.
The group, called the Toymakers, is a not-for-profit corporation of volunteers who gather several days a week to make simple wooden toys for sick and needy children in the Tampa Bay area. They occupy four separate workshops located at Little Road and State Road 52.
Headed up by retiree Bill Coccia, all of the toys are specially designed to be safe, contain no nails, screws, or staples and only child-safe paint is used for these brightly coloured toys.
“We have about 80 men and women volunteers in our group who devote their time making the toys,” said Bill. “We make over 80 different models and we’re able to produce several thousand of these toys every three months,” he said.
Bill and his group of volunteers gather three days a week to hand-craft these unique toys for children who need them most. They meet at a row of workshops located at the junction of Little Road and State Road 52, each workshop having a different function.
Bill explained that each toy begins with drawing a toy template on pieces of prepped wood. The shape is then cut out on a bandsaw, after which all the sharp corners are rounded off. The piece then gets sanded until completely smooth, primed, painted and decorated. The last phase of the process is to mount the wheels and then they’re ready to be delivered to more than 27 agencies who care for children.
“We make over 80 different models of toys and distribute them throughout the Tampa Bay Area, including Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough,” Bill said. “The agencies we send them to include local hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses, for example.”
Over the years, The ToyMakers have been blessed with individuals and organizations who have donated monies and products towards the thousands and thousands of various parts, thousands of dowels for axles, and untold gallons of spray and liquid paints needed every year, not to mention repairs to our machines.
“We have a very deep appreciation of those who support us including the volunteers who receive no compensation for their skill or time,” said Bill.
He explained The Toymakers survive solely on the generosity of sponsors and fellow toymakers. One hundred percent of all materials and money donated is used in the making of toys. Distribution of the toys is directly to the children through well recognized agencies like Shriner's, All Children's Specialty Care and Pasco County Fire Rescue.
“We do so appreciate the donations we receive from local businesses,” Bill said. “Sometimes it’s money but mostly it’s wood like poplar, walnut or cherry and on other occasions, it might be equipment, like this table saw.”
The ToyMakers are always in need of more volunteers, and donations of wood, paint, and money to buy wheels, axles, sandpaper, etc. If you think you would like to be involved, check out their website at www.thetoymakers.org. The group is also looking for ladies who like to sew and would be willing to help sew dolls. Another way to help the organisation is to select 'The ToyMakers Inc' as your charity on smile.amazon.com, and Amazon will contribute 0.5 percent of your purchases to The ToyMakers with no additional cost to you.