Meet The Toy Makers. They’re the woodworkers making thousands of toys all year for the patients of Children’s of Alabama. Photo gallery below.
The stress and uncertainty that comes along with a child’s hospitalization is something that stays on the minds of hearts of a local group within the Alabama Woodworkers’ Guild.
These makers spend hours upon hours, all volunteer, in their Maylene shop about 10 minutes south of Helena, creating wooden handicrafts. Starting with only a 2×4 and a lot of skill, they make all kinds of toys for the boys and girls staying at Children’s. Last year they made over 12,000 toys!
Toys For All The Boys And Girls
The Toy Makers use their love of woodworking to make toys for children in more than a few hospitals (two in Atlanta, one in Nashville, one in Memphis), but the work they do for Children’s of Alabama has personal connections.
“For a lot of people in the group, it’s all about Children’s of Alabama, ” said Sandra McMillan. McMillan serves as co-chair of the Toy Group of the Alabama Woodworkers’ Guild along with Bob Watkins. “One of the neatest things I found is at least two of the guys have grandchildren who have been patients. They’ve seen things from the family’s side.”
March Is Child Life Month
Getting the toys in the hands of the patients is an effort that’s a part of a department at Children’s called Child Life. Within the Child Life Department are Child Life specialists.
These trained professionals help children cope with the uneasiness of hospitalization. Child life specialists have many roles, and one of them is to coordinate a variety of different activities for the patients, like painting the handmade wooden toys.
All Types of Toys
While Christmas, Halloween and other seasonal events keep The Toy Makers busy, the group coordinates their woodworking with the events hosted by Children’s Child Life department.
“They try really hard to match their work with our themed events,” said Child Life Specialist Supervisor Honey Cook. “They also try really hard to make it therapeutic for the patients, as well.”
Whether it’s a recently released movie that’s a hit with the kids or their favorite football teams, the toys are tailored to the interests of the patients and events planned by the child life specialists.
“The different thing about Children’s is that we do custom work for them,” McMillan said. “Honey tells us what she needs, and we work together to get it done. When they had Dr. Seuss day, we made puzzles. Shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day. We’ve done cowboy cutouts and puzzles, and we also make toys for other Children’s events, too.”
There’s even a special toy that flies with the Children’s CARE Flight Critical Care Transport Team.
“For our care flight team, they made wooden helicopters,” Cook said. “So our care flight crew, when they pick up a patient, they’ll give them a wooden helicopter with a Children’s of Alabama sticker on it.”
No matter what’s going on, the group meets the needs of the hospital, and that’s no small task.
“It’s a very dedicated group of people, and what blows me away is how committed they are to making sure the toys get made,” McMillan said.
Love these stories about Children’s of Alabama? Check out my last post about the courageous kids of Camp WIRED together.