Tourist donates hundreds of toys won at boardwalk

December 28, 2010 1:50:24 PM PST
Jack Hudson isn't lucky - he has winning arcade games down to a science at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

To share his good fortune, Hudson has been exchanging tickets he wins from the games for hundreds of toys and stuffed animals, which he has been giving to charity for the past two years.

"We get so many tickets and the grandkids didn't need that much stuff, so we figured we might as well donate them," said Hudson, 57, of Sanger, California.

Hudson and his wife Sheila head down to the boardwalk up to five times each year and spend at least $1,000 on tokens for arcade games, but it's money well spent, he said.

"It lasts the entire year for our vacations," he said. "I know people that would spend maybe $10,000 on just one trip to Las Vegas."

He always buys the tickets in December, when the boardwalk has a 2-for-1 discount that gets him $2,000 worth of tokens for the $1,000 he spends.

With the tokens, Hudson is known to rake in more than 75,000 tickets in a single weekend. He's gotten thousands of dollars worth of toys with the tickets, ranging from footballs to yo-yos to stuffed animals to kids' purses.

"We took home 27 cases of toys this time around," he said. Each case had up to 50 toys in them.

Hudson said his family chooses the charity based on the toys they get. This year, the footballs and yoyos went to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. The stuffed animals went to other charities.

Half the toys went to the Sanger Eagles, a nonprofit that will distribute them among churches, low-income families and soldiers. The rest went to the Marjaree Mason Center, which helps families and people facing domestic violence.

"We don't need the tickets nor the toys, but other people do," he said. "We're just a couple of old souls trying to help."

Hudson said he doesn't really play to win the tickets.

"I'm just there to play the game. I like to beat the machine," he said.

On one of his favorite games, Wonder Wheel, a token slides down a conveyor belt into an opening on a Ferris wheel. If he gets it into the right opening, he can get 150 tickets.

"And then it starts a 10 second countdown timer and gives you 200, 400, or 800 tickets," he said. "In one five-token play, if I'm on the money, I can win 1500 tickets in a matter of 50 seconds."

Hudson is a mechanical person by nature, he said. He's owned an auto repair shop for nearly 32 years. Generations of his family have lived in Sanger for 130 years, and they've been coming up to Santa Cruz "for about 100 of that," he said.

No employee on the boardwalk has ever tried to stop Hudson from taking away so many winnings, he said. "They know who we are and they know what we're doing."


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