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Student Elves Fill Stockings With Special Toys

November 30, 1986|JAXON VAN DERBEKEN | Times Staff Writer

It was a Christmas gift collection of which dreams are made.

A Styrofoam toy resembling a gigantic white sea anemone joined a life-size stuffed Gumby and 150 other gifts ablaze with bright blues, reds, greens and yellows. Mobiles, soft cuddly clowns and a foam-cushion hot dog complete with mustard were among toys that crammed table after table.

This toy land was the creation of 150 Cal Poly Pomona architecture students, who spent a week designing, sewing and gluing the playthings as part of a class project.

The toys were not destined for the shelves of any store. Instead, the gifts were created for residents of Lanterman Development Center in Pomona, which is home to 1,000 physically or mentally disabled people ranging in age from 3 to 91.

The student elves looked on proudly last week as seven Lanterman residents visited the Pomona campus to pick out their favorites from among the creations.

All seven came away with two or three of the special toys. The rest will be taken to the center for distribution.

Lanterman treats severely retarded people, who have an average mental age of 2 or 3, teaching them basic survival skills, said Dr. Hiromu Nakamura, a supervisor at the hospital.

The toys used at Lanterman must be sturdy, have no sharp edges and no complex parts, Nakamura said, adding that such toys often cost $15 or more and are hard to find.

Cal Poly Pomona architecture students began designing toys for the developmentally disabled in 1972. Peggy Bosley, an architecture instructor who coordinates the gift program, said the project is more than just holiday good will.

"This is very serious architecture," she said.

Bosley said the project deals with such basic design concepts as color, shape and form and helps make future architects "sensitive to who it is they are designing for."

Designing toys for the developmentally disabled helps architects develop problem-solving skills, Bosley said.

For example, about 300 Lanterman residents are confined to their beds and some students designed mobiles and other toys to suit them. One mobile used spoons and other household items.

The student architects must also design gifts that are appropriate for the mental and physical age of the recipients.

'Put Your Heart in It'

"Some of you have taken this exercise and just done it," Bernard Zimmerman, another architecture instructor, told the students. "Some of you have taken this exercise and really put your heart in it."

Lanterman officials welcomed the gifts and lauded the time and effort that went into them.

"I think the students have made a tremendous effort to be creative," said Nakamura. "There's a lot of colors, different kinds of shapes, textures. That's what appeals to the eye and to the feel. There are musical toys to stimulate the auditory as well."

Nakamura said such toys should be available commercially.

The toys ranged from a small red, yellow and blue wooden train that hauled geometrically shaped blocks to 5-foot-high stuffed letters "A" and "Z."

Gumby a Hit

The Gumby doll, made of foam rubber and covered with bright green corduroy, was a big hit with one Lanterman resident who hugged the creature and carried it around with her.

"Thank you. I'm going to take it back home," she said.

Sam Miller, the student who made the life-sized toy with the help of his mother, said he had envisioned a Gumby with "wire all through him but it didn't work out." Miller settled for a toy with flexible arms.

Another Lanterman resident showed off a pair of blue and white cloth glasses, one of four pair Stella Wiles made with the help of her mother. The young man hugged Zimmerman, who was also wearing a pair of the glasses.

'In Christmas Spirit'

"I wanted to make something they could wear," Wiles said. "You really had to think about their needs, what would entertain and what would be safe.

"It was a lot of hard work, but I had fun doing it. It's also in the Christmas spirit."

Another gift, "the Joker," was a 4-foot-high clown with a square body that had a tick-tack-toe game on its chest and a checkerboard on its back. Game pieces are held on by Velcro.

Sergio Orellana said it took him from noon Sunday until 5 a.m. Monday to finish the toy, which cost $75 to create.

Not all the gifts were soft and cuddly. One was the wooden train.

Judy Manligas, who designed the train, said she decided to build the it because "everybody else was doing a stuffed animal." Her father did much of the woodwork, she said.

Students also designed puzzles, including one made of three pillows that spelled "Love" when fitted together.

As the seven Lanterman residents left with their toys, Lanterman officials promised to send to Cal Poly Pomona a videotape of the party at which the rest of the residents will receive their Christmas gifts.

"They'll make great use of the toys through the holidays and beyond," Nakamura said.

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