The Ohio State University Alumni Association

The University Women’s Club Toymakers have brought joy to thousands of children while transforming miles of fabric into lovable dolls and animals.

The Toymakers of University Women’s Club have been making stuffed dolls and animals for area children for nearly eight decades. Their creations comfort youngsters in hospitals, learning centers and shelters as well as adults with Alzheimer’s.

“When a little child is sick or hurting, a handmade toy is just the ticket,” said Sharyn Talbert, first vice president for programs for Ohio State’s University Women’s Club. The 25 members of the Toymakers make up a special-interest group within the club.

Each stuffed toy — whether kitten, snowman, dachshund or unidentifiable but huggable creature — begins as a pattern and a length of soft cotton or fleece. Scissors get a workout at a party each June, when the women cut out all the shapes for the coming year’s projects. They do most of the preliminary sewing at home, then get together at Grandview Heights Public Library once a month, fall through spring, to pull things together.

Members of Toymakers, from left, Ann Haney, Elizabeth Shaudys, Karen Dertinger, Valerie Rayner and Tena Stewart, look over the work for the day.
Adding polyester fluff to arms and legs is an important part of the job.
Ellen Leppert, standing, takes a moment to look over the group’s progress as members sit at long tables covered with all types of sewing supplies.
A member lovingly works on the finishing touches of a scarlet-and-gray bear.
Looking pleased with their progress are members, from left, Marie Peters, Elizabeth Shaudys, Mary Smith, Julie Buckley, Ann Haney and Valerie Rayner.
Alice Bevan shows off a completed bear, free of buttons and metal parts — so safe for cuddling in medical scanners such as MRIs.
Creativity and conversation are integral to every work session of the Toymakers.
Most preliminary sewing is down at home, with members gathering monthly at Grandview Public Library to finish the toys.
Completing one of these whimsical treasures can take members several hours.
Elizabeth Shaudys makes a point during a recent gathering. Working with her are, from left, Julie Buckley, Mary Smith and Marie Peters.
The hundreds of toys this group creates each year are a welcome donation for local hospitals and organizations that benefit people of all ages.
Bonnie Stevens helps a bunny express himself.

The University Women’s Club was founded in 1895 by Flavia Canfield, an artist, writer, suffragist and wife of Ohio State’s fourth president, James Hulme Canfield. In addition to toymaking, one of the longest-running activities, today’s 300-plus members can join like-minded peers to explore cinema, gardening, even genealogy. No Ohio State affiliation is required.

At a recent meeting, after a break for snacks and homemade potato soup, a thank-you letter from Rebecca Love of the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities made the rounds. Her words summed up the Toymakers’ work especially well:

“Your contributions have reached the hearts of hundreds of infants and toddlers in our centers,” she wrote. “I am most moved by the care and time dedicated to each of the soft dolls. The children hug them, kiss them and show tenderness that mirrors the hands that make them.”

Other letters to Toymakers through the years — which have been entrusted to University Archives — share similar sentiments:

May 20, 1966

Thanks so much for the beautiful stuffed dolls. They are adorable. We all sat there “oohing and aahing” when we saw them.

We plan to use them in limited amounts in the playrooms and on the toy carts, and would like to ask your permission to save some for birthday and Christmas gifts for our very ill children to cuddle.

Thank you again for your time and effort on our behalf.

Rosa M. Hartsook
Occupational Therapy Department
Children’s Hospital


April 8, 1975

On behalf of our staff, I would like to thank you and the other OSU Women’s Club Toymakers for the lovely stuffed toys you have given us. The children certainly enjoy the colorful animals and other toys that you have made.

Lee Townsel
Director
The CMH Centers


October 28, 1996

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for the darling stuffed toys and puppets the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital shared with us to give the children who have long waits in our intensive care areas. What a difference these toys will make for these children.

I wish you all well and want you to know what true appreciation I have for your gifts of time and effort.

Martha C. Merriman
Director, Hospital Volunteer Services
University Hospitals

December 1969

The children have gotten so many enjoyable hours as a result of your efforts. I thank you for them! The show ’n’ tell is a real bonus — you can imagine how much it entertains children in bed!

My staff anticipates every delivery. They are very aware of you as a group. I delight in their pleasure and excitement when looking at the things.

Have a successful 1970!

Maggie Adamson
Director, Occupational Therapy
Children’s Hospital


January 22, 1991

Thank you so much for your wonderful contribution of stuffed animals to the children of our shelter.

Our Christmas celebration was a great success thanks to your creations. Santa was swarmed with hugs and kisses after he marched in carrying a bag over his shoulder, full of your stuffed animals. He passed them out individually to every child.

Since Christmas, we have continued to give each child entering the shelter one of your stuffed animals. I get as much pleasure from doing this as the children do in receiving them. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Diane Darrah Stock
Youth counselor
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