DELHI _ A steady hand, a good aim and lots of practice earned a Hamden boy dozens of prizes, and he has decided to share the wealth.
Michael Cardillo, 8, of Hamden, loves to pluck stuffed animals from the treasure trove of prizes in crane games at retail outlets.
His fascination with the machines began a year ago when his father, Chuck Cardillo, won him a teddy bear in a game at the Walton Dollar Store.
"Daddy won the first one, and I wanted to try it," Michael said last week.
Mary Cardillo said that as Michael's skill manipulating the crane improved, the pile of stuffed animals steadily grew.
"He had accumulated so many, we began to try to think of something to do with them," she said. "We talked about it one day when Michael won some animals at the Big M in Walton."
Mary Cardillo said she baby-sits for the children of one of Delaware County's investigators and she asked him if the sheriff's department could use the toys for the program in which sheriffs use stuffed animals in the patrol cars to comfort children.
Delaware County Sheriff Tom Mills said the stuffed animal program began in the early 1990s and was very successful, but in recent years, the donations of stuffed animals dwindled.
"Over the last few years, we have had no donations,'' Mills said. ``So we stopped giving out the animals."
He said the animals are used to comfort children who are upset at accidents, by domestic problems and for other occasions when an animal is a calming presence.
As Mills picked up first a lion and then a white dog with a pink pillow, he said to Michael, "You're quite a talented young man. I don't think I have ever pulled one of these out of one of those machines."
Michael confided that there are some tricks to consistently winning the animals.
"The first thing you have to do is to check to see if there are any animals that are loose in the game," Michael said, but then hesitated about sharing any more of his secrets.
Chuck Cardillo said Michael wins about three times out of 10 at the games.
In addition to stuffed animals, Michael has also procured watches and sports equipment.
"I won three watches in one day," Michael said, grinning.
As Michael was heading out of the Delaware County office building, he begged his mother to go to the store so he could try to win more animals for the sheriff's deputies to carry in their cars.
Mills said donations of new stuffed animals are always appreciated.
Patricia Breakey can be reached at 746-2894 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.