Holmes Toy Shop brings smiles to elementary kids

By From page A1 | December 20, 2012

Leo Carpenter, 6, plays a bowling game with Elf Varun Kota, 14, as a couple of other elves watch the action Monday evening at the Holmes Junior High School Toy Shop. Teacher Lance Gunnersen hopes to include more youngsters in the holiday program next year. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

Plastic and electronic toys may dominate store shelves and children’s wish lists this time of year, but students in the industrial technology and wood shop classes at Holmes Junior High School served up a reminder this week that there’s nothing quite like a handmade wooden toy.

Some 35 local elementary school children attended the sixth annual Holmes Toy Shop on Monday evening, where they played with the many wooden toys Holmes students have crafted over the years — from a giant marble maze to a pinball game, shuffle board to giant airplane — and each then went home with a special wooden toy handmade by a Holmes student.

Teacher Lance Gunnersen said this year’s event was the biggest and best yet — with twice as many children invited. All were students in grades K-3 attending one of Holmes’ three feeder schools — North Davis, Birch Lane and César Chávez elementary schools.

When they arrived, they entered a wood shop classroom transformed by students and parents with lights and decorations to resemble a sort of winter wonderland. Volunteers served up refreshments and the Holmes band provided live music.

But it was the toys that highlighted the evening.

For many weeks, Gunnersen’s students have been hard at work, both building the toys in class — using an assembly-line process that features strict quality control — and soliciting donations from the community to pay for them all. Several students dressed as elves could be spotted at recent Farmers Markets seeking sponsors.

“We raised quite a bit of money that way,” Gunnersen said. “The community is very supportive.”

“(And) it’s wonderful to share with the community the hard work that these students do in class. Our elves learn more than how to fabricate wooden toys — they learn that these skills … make a big difference in the lives of others. They learn that they can make that difference.”

And it wasn’t just the industrial technology and wood shop students. Deanna Leveque’s art students at Holmes hand-painted many of the toys while leadership students helped out with decorating the wood shop.

Many adults pitched in as well, with the Holmes PTA providing funds and volunteers to make the evening a success, Gunnersen said.

“This event has inspired many people to contribute,” he added, “making our program a bigger success each year.”

In fact, he’d like to triple the size next year and eventually be able to include children from all Davis elementary schools — if not beyond. The only issue will be finding a bigger location, Gunnersen said, as the wood shop was pretty much at capacity Monday night, filled as it was with the sights and sounds of many very happy children.

Community sponsors are always welcome in making the toy shop a success, Gunnersen said. Anyone interested should contact Gunnersen at [email protected]. (Yes, his email address is spelled differently than his last name.)

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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