The power of pint-sized design and construction engineers with monumental imaginations was on display Saturday during the second annual Blocks of Love LEGO Expo at Fairfield Ludlowe High School.
Proceeds support the free, professional services provided by the Norwalk-based CancerCare of Connecticut to children and families affected by cancer.
Participating builders, 265 of them compared to 125 last year, pre-constructed their LEGO projects, which ranged from the simplistic to the elaborate; from the down to earth Taj Mahal created by Sam Gosselin, 13, of Fairfield., to the out-of-this-world Star Wars' Millenium Falcon and Yoda created by Quin Koether, 10, also of Fairfield.
"That looks like it took forever to do," said Sally Laroche, of Fairfield, whose sons Will, 11, and Andrew, 8, also built a Star Wars-themed project.
More than 1,000 children and adults attended last year, and organizers guessed at least that many attended this year. The day featured the LEGO models display, play stations, workshops, robotics, collectibles, and crafts.
Jacob Rodier, 12, of Fairfield, an accomplished LEGO master builder, worked all day on constructing a LEGO carousel, complete with moving parts, which was auctioned at the end of the day. His completed village, which combined four LEGO kits and took him four years to finish, amazed people for its elaborate detail inside and out.
"It was worth the hour drive. It's done by kids their own age. It gives them inspiration to create more on their own, in their own style instead of following the models," said Kelly Marlow, of Mt. Kisco, N.Y., who brought her son R.J., 8, to the LEGO event.
"He's going to leave here with all kinds of ideas in his head," Marlow said.
Apparently, building with LEGOs can be as addictive as playing video games. One father, Tim Ehrlich, of Westport, joked that he, his wife Suzanne and daughters Lola, 9, and Zoe, 11, "have a LEGO-head with us," son Nate, 4.
Angela Dunn, of New Canaan, called her daughter Julianne, 9, "an innocent bystander to her brother's LEGO obsession." Julianne worked on a two-dimensional LEGO art project while brother Johnny, 7, made a LEGO car that won several downhill races against other LEGO vehicles.
Some builders had worked from LEGO kits. Others used a free-form style with their own creativity as the template. Michael Cirelli, 12, of Fairfield, explained why he enjoys working without a model by saying, "There's no scripted story. You can do whatever you want. That's half the fun, using your imagination." Building is the other half, he said.
Michael built a ship as did his nearly 9-year-old brother, Christopher. They worked on their projects individually and then created an ocean scene out of cardboard and blue tissue paper for waves, placing both of their LEGO ships in one scene. Both boys said they participated to help a good cause and in memory of a school friend who recently died of cancer. "I was very sad and felt I needed to do something about it," Michael said.
Kennedy Snyder, 10, of Wilton, made a LEGO Buzz Lightyear character from the movie Toy Story. She said she built it "because I have cancer and I want to help other kids with cancer."
Even before the doors to the LEGO Expo opened Saturday the event had raised $70,000. Last year's event raised about $75,000 said Cannella, who expects the second annual Blocks of Love to top $100,000.
CancerCare of Connecticut will use the funding to provide free, professional support services to anyone in Connecticut affected by cancer: people with cancer, caregivers, children, loved ones, and the bereaved. CancerCare programs --including counseling and support groups, education, financial assistance and practical help -- are provided by professional oncology social workers. Last year more than 3,000 Connecticut adults, children and families were served. Find out more about the organization at www.cancercare.org.