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July 27, 2014

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Volunteers who whittle toy cars for children get space to expand

Toys 4 Smiles

Mary, one of the children who received a gift from Toys 4 Smiles, takes her new wooden car off to play. Volunteers at Toys 4 Smiles, founded in 2006, craft toy cars from scrap metal for underprivileged children in Las Vegas Valley. Launch slideshow »

Beyond the Sun

Map of Toys 4 Smiles

Toys 4 Smiles

3170 Polaris Ave., Units 17 and 18, Las Vegas

After four years of lighting up the faces of Clark County’s underprivileged youth, Toys 4 Smiles finally has a place to call home. The non-profit group, whose volunteers craft toy cars from scrap wood, opened its first Toy Shop on March 10 near the corner of Polaris and Sirius avenues.

The 3,400-square-foot space, donated by real estate groups in California and Nevada, should give the operation an opportunity to grow, said Rex Doty, founder and president of Toys 4 Smiles.

“We’ve spent the first four years in our garages,” Doty said. The organization started with a group of six volunteers who were whittling toy cars in their homes in 2007.

“Now, it allows us to involve other people in the community,” he said.

The new digs will be divided into three sections, Doty said: one for furnishing the cars from the donated scrap wood, another for storage and an area for children to come in and decorate their own toys.

It’s good timing for a blossoming organization. The original goal was to make 500 cars each year, Doty said. But the group has since grown to about 40 members, and they have donated 80,000 toy cars in total to such organizations as Safe Nest, Shade Tree, Catholic Charities and Child Haven.

About 12,000 have gone to Clark County elementary schools, Doty said. He admits he’s been overwhelmed, but pleased, with the project’s success.

“We just wanted to help a few kids,” Doty said, “but this thing reaches out to so much more than toys.”

Toys 4 Smiles relies entirely on donations and volunteers, he added. Furniture and other supplies were donated to help set up the new shop, and Doty said they are always looking for new faces to help with making and finishing the toys, as well as running the business side of the operation.

The group’s wish list includes scrap hardwood, sponsors for its electric and insurance bills and equipment such as band saws, dust collectors and sanders, Doty said.

“Anything that anybody can do is always greatly needed,” he said.

On April 1, the Main Street Chamber of Henderson is sponsoring a fundraiser for the organization. Called Bowl-a-Palooza, it will be held at the Wildfire Casino and Lounge at 6 p.m. Cost is $20 per person, which includes bowling shoes and one drink. All proceeds benefit Toys 4 Smiles.

For those interested, the Toy Shop, 3170 Polaris Ave., is open at the following times: Monday, 8:30 a.m. to noon; Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. to noon; Thursday, noon to 8 p.m.; and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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