Editor's note: This updates how to buy a Laffy Laffalot.
ORANGE — Riding in an elevator with firefighter and Newport Beach inventor Steve Islava can be a load of laughs.
He doesn't have to say a word. He just pushes a button on his latest creation, Laffy Laffalot, and the children's toy plays one of 20 pre-recorded laughs that can make an elevator full of people smile and even chuckle. The device allows you to record your own message or laugh into the recorder and play it back later.
Like Santa Claus with a cart full of toys instead of a bag, Islava and his fellow firefighters from the Orange County Fire Authority stopped by the Children's Hospital of Orange County on Tuesday and gave out about 300 Laffy Laffalots to kids.
"I've been a medic and firefighter over 20 years, and in our job, we've seen a lot of trauma and illness," Islava said. "Bringing laughter is so important. It reduces stress for the whole family … laughter is the best medicine."
In a situation where parents and hospital workers do what they can to keep spirits high, Islava's invention was a simple, yet effective method. Just ask Angelica Sano.
"You're a weirdo, Jan-Jan!" the 8-year-old joyfully shouted into the toy, a message to her little brother Jerome, who goes by Jan-Jan.
Recovering from an operation last month where surgeons removed her right foot, it looked like Angelica was going to spend a good part of Tuesday recording things for her brother and listening to laughter. Her favorite was a baby's laugh, she said.
One floor up, Nysa Norville watched her 3-year-old son, Justin, grin ear to ear when he heard the crowd laughter, then the wheezy, too-funny-to-breathe laugh.
Justin lit up when firefighters fawned over him, showing him how the toy works.
"In a minute he's going to start doing flips, he loves an audience," his mother said.
Islava got the laughs for his toy from his children and the Internet, he said.
On the hospital's fifth floor, 7-year-old Natalie Nuber was doing homework when she got a visit from firefighter Ryan Bishop.
With her mother by her side, Natalie excitedly put aside the books and began bursting out with questions and phrases into the Laffy Laffalot.
"They showed up at just the right time, she needed a break," said her mother, Christa.
Bishop walked her through all the different laughs it could play and how to record her voice.
"It's very humbling," Bishop said after meeting with Natalie. "It feels good to put a smile on a child's face, even if it's just for a second and it's gone."
The smile on Natalie's face, or any of the other children visited Tuesday, didn't seem to be going away anytime soon.
To buy a Laffy Laffalot for $19.99, visit www.laffylaffalot.com. Put CHOC in as the promo code, and $2 will be donated to the hospital for every Laffy sold.