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Game Whiz Has Knack for Giving Cheer

February 22, 1987|BETH UYEHARA | Times Staff Writer

SANTA FE SPRINGS — Everybody has some hidden skill--some knack for doing the darndest thing right every time he or she tries it.

Tom Franklin's knack is for winning amusement park games, like boom ball, the basketball shoot and baseball toss. Franklin often wins 10 out of 10 times, he says, and over the years, he has provided his five children with more stuffed animals than they could ever possibly play with.

At Christmas, he decided to put his skill to charitable use by winning toys for hospitalized children. Supplied with quarters by his employer, The Bicycle Club, where he is a poker dealer and floor man, Franklin bought a pass to Knott's Berry Farm and began accumulating the more than 75 small, medium and giant-sized stuffed animals he presented to the patients at Los Amigos Medical Center on Feb. 13. Los Amigos is a county rehabilitation center in Downey for patients with chronic and catastrophic illnesses.

Because Knott's Berry Farm limits the number of prizes a competitor can win at one time, it took Franklin numerous trips to get enough presents for all the children in the hospital.

Others pitched in. Franklin's wife and children, also whizzes at amusement park games, helped him win the animals; Pete Ellis Dodge donated a van to carry the bulky toys to the hospital, and when the medical center asked at the last minute if Franklin could come up with 20 extra toys for outpatient children, Franklin called his brother Walt in Reno for help. Walt Franklin headed for Circus Circus and won 30 "rainbow stuffed hearts," which he brought to Downey in time for the presentation to the children.

There were enough stuffed animals for the adult patients as well as the children. The "giant" five-foot-high animals will remain in the hospital units, Franklin said, while the patients will keep the smaller ones.

Franklin said that one little girl, a head trauma patient, hugging her stuffed toy, called Franklin's daughter over and whispered, "I want to tell you a secret. I love you. Thank you, thank you."

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