Thursday, December 24, 2009
Big Elf makes toys for Shriners Hospital for Children-Salt Lake
Making toys the way elves would
Sandy couple find joy in building, donating old-fashioned toys to hospitalized kids.
By Katie Drake, The Salt Lake Tribune(for more pictures and compleat story go to
Grant Chapman shows off some of the toys he has created in his basement work shop. Each year,...
While holiday shoppers are frantically picking up last minute gifts, Grant Chapman has already started on next year's Christmas toys.
For more than 20 years, Chapman and his wife Ruby have donated hand-crafted toys to the children at Shriners Hospital, hoping to brighten their holidays despite their medical challenges.
Chapman has devoted an entire wing of his Sandy home to the project and spends hundreds of hours creating new patterns for trains, Hummers and race cars.
This year's donation was a personal best of 140 cars and nine six-car trains. The couple also makes wooden blocks and sometimes doll cradles, complete with a teddy bear, for little girls.
The toys can have a huge effect on a child, said Shriners child-life specialist Carolyn Duerden.
"Children in general love a toy or something that makes them feel good, especially when they are away from home," Duerden said.
She began placing the Chapman's toys under the clinic Christmas tree on Monday, and they were an immediate hit. Many of the Shriners children do not have many toys, Duerden said. Hand-crafted toys are even more special as donations to the hospital are down this year.
Chapman is glad to have found a good use for his woodworking hobby. The octogenarian "can't stand to be idle" and has to be making something useful. He also hates waste, and uses scrap materials to create his toys.
Wood is the biggest cost, but Chapman spends only about $150 each year on the toys, thanks to wood donations from West Truss Inc. The company gives him free rein in its lumber yard, where he is welcome to any piece of wood less than two feet long.
"It's awesome for us, because we're not throwing it away," said Chet Jensen, the company's design manager.
Chapman always gives samples of his work to the children of West Truss employees, Jensen said, as a way of saying thank you.
The couple is hoping to top their record next year, and have already completed some cars. Ruby has painted hundreds of headlights and wheels while Chapman refines his designs to create more realistic cars and trains to brighten the holidays of children stuck in the hospital.