JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lynn and Malcolm Shiroma sit among the thousands of stuffed animals Lynn has collected over the years by playing claw games at various establishments across the island. The Shiromas are giving some of the toys to needy children this holiday season. CLICK FOR LARGE
What a catch!
An avid game player wants to give her stuffed prizes away
When it comes to stuffed toys, giving them away is a bigger thrill for Lynn Shiroma than getting her claws on them.
Shiroma has won close to 2,000 stuffed animals and dolls from those toy crane vending machines -- in which a giant claw picks up the prizes -- since she started playing the machines a year and a half ago.
She mostly gives her prizes away to the open-mouthed, wide-eyed kids who gather to watch her handiwork.
Husband Malcolm Shiroma, who is often by her side, said, "They are amazed. You should see their faces."
But she still has a mountain of fluff and fur that she and her husband store in an office. They work together as Realtors and owners of Krazy Karaoke on Young Street.
Lynn Shiroma had been wondering what she could do with all her cuddly creatures when a client from HUGS (Help, Understanding and Group Support) said the children in her nonprofit group would love having about 200 of them.
Shiroma then made arrangements to donate more toys to the Shriners Hospital for Children and Toys for Tots. But she's worried that she'll still have hundreds left after the holidays and is looking for a home for the rest of her toys. Any organization is welcome to call her at 591-8843.
Shiroma's obsession started with just wanting to see if she could do it, but the challenge quickly turned into a daily habit that has cost her "thousands of dollars," but is one well worth it, she said.
"My husband says it's my therapy. It's better than paying a psychiatrist," she laughed.
Malcolm drives her to favorite spots all over the island every day. They go to vending machines at supermarkets from downtown to Pearl City to Kapolei as a break between business appointments, or as a last stop after work between midnight and 2 a.m., she said.
At first, Lynn would be happy just to get anything from the machines. "Then she got picky," Malcolm said.
"I would see the kids around, and they'd say, 'Oooh! I want that one.' I'd say, 'OK.' And if I would get it, it would make me feel good," said Lynn, adding, "I've always wanted children, but I couldn't have any."
It took three months before she learned the idiosyncrasies of claws that were too loose (bad) or tight (good), and the best part of a toy to try to hook onto (like the neck), she said.
"A lot of it is luck and the position of the animals, or how full (the cage is). ... It's all timing and placement," she said. And focus. "I don't think of anything else," she said.