When he's not working as a paramedic for the Orange County Fire Authority, Steve Islava invents devices that prevent physical and emotional injuries.
Twenty-five years ago, after delivering a Spanish speaker's baby, he created a handbook of crucial Spanish phrases for English-speaking EMTs and firefighters. Then came an easy-to-use ladder used for escaping a fire-engulfed home. And there was also an inflatable splint.
But with his latest creation — a neon-orange toy named Laffy Laffalot — the Newport Beach resident is using a portion of the sales to raise money for cancer research.
Intended to salve emotional wounds, Laffy is a plastic, cartoonish glob about the size of a football, with 20 types of laughter that emit from his speaker belly, four buttons for recording and a helium voice option.
"I've invented a lot of things, but this is my thing I really want to give back," Islava said.
Laffy was originally intended for children in hospitals who may not hear much laughter. Now Islava hopes to bring the sound of joy to even more children through Walmart's Get on the Shelf contest.
In the contest he's competing with more than 4,000 other products to be featured on Walmart.com and possibly in some Walmart stores, according to company spokesman Ravi Jariwala.
Islava is hoping to get enough votes for Laffy before the April 3 deadline to put the toy in the top 10.
Islava sees a move to Walmart's website as a chance to raise money for Tustin-based Miracles for Kids and the Children's Hospital of Orange County. Last Christmas he and the Orange County Professional Firefighters Assn. donated 300 of the toys to children in the hospital.
He also hopes the Walmart exposure helps his ongoing fundraising for the National Children's Cancer Society. Currently, $3 of every $19.95 Laffy sale is donated to the society.
So far, about 10,000 Laffys have made their way into the hands of children nationwide and have reached as far as Ireland, England and an orphanage in Haiti, according to Islava.
Fire Authority Battalion Chief David Phillips said Islava is constantly coming up with ideas.
"His mind never stops working," Phillips said.
Even now, as Islava is pushing for Laffy to reach as many children as possible, he is creating a device that would help seniors regulate medication dosages, with the aim of preventing them from skipping or doubling up on medicines.
"All my inventions have been to help," he said.
How to Vote for Laffy
Go to the Laffy Laffalot page under the Toy category
Click on Laffy Laffalot
Vote via Twitter or Facebook by clicking the links on the upper right-hand side.