Sweets shop saves the day

When Newport Beach children's store Toy Boat Toy Boat Toy Boat closed in March, about $200 worth of gift certificates still in the hands of elementary school students seemed suddenly worthless.

For years, the beloved local toy store had sponsored the Newport-Mesa Spirit Run, an annual racing event that raises money for area schools.

The top three boys and girls from each age group — all under 8 — won a small gift certificate to the store.

But about two weeks after the March 3 race, financial difficulties finally sank Toy Boat, leaving about 20 kids with nowhere to spend their winnings.

Race organizer Diane Daruty spent the next three months trying to find a way to honor those gift certificates.

"One thing Spirit Run is known for is our prizes," she said.

Daruty called local candy stores, toy stores, anywhere she thought a kid might want to spend money.

Because the race was over, she couldn't offer businesses advertising in exchange for their support, but she hoped the Spirit Run's reputation would help her convince them to award the youngsters a substitute for the prize they'd earned.

Last year's event raised more than $50,000 for Newport-Mesa Unified School District campuses.

"I was kind of surprised nobody wanted to do it," Daruty said.

But then she called Balboa Candy, and the family-owned store agreed to fill the hole left by Toy Boat's closing.

About a dozen kids arrived Thursday to spend their spoils together. They went about the store, picking their favorites from barrels scattered throughout the shop.

Preschooler Summer and her sister, fourth-grader Carly Wilson, filled small metal lunch boxes to the brim with sweets.

Their mother, Tiffany, said she was surprised to hear that the Spirit Run had found another way to redeem her daughters' winnings.

"I thought we weren't going to get anything," she said, recalling the day she read that Toy Boat had gone out of business.

Under Balboa Candy's old-timey awning, second-grader Isabella Vu showed off the shell lollipop the store gave her as a bonus.

She said she didn't think she'd be able to eat all the candy she had gathered up.

Balboa Candy owner Steve Bodenhoefer said he was happy to honor the gift certificates.

He and his wife and kids have run the store for more than a decade and expanded in 2008 to Balboa Peninsula, where the youngsters were shopping Thursday.

The Bodenhoefers already work with some local schools and the Junior Lifeguard program to promote their store, he said.

The community connection with families helps Balboa Candy survive.

"The kids keep us in business," he said. "Without the kids, we're gone."

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World