(DETROIT) — When Peter Drakos was a kid, he loved to play baseball and help his father with his linen company, never imagining that those hobbies would one day help make him one of the best carnival game players in the world.
Today, the man known as Peter Magic uses those talents to donate thousands upon thousands of toys to kids.
“There’s no dollar value that you can put on a child’s face when you give them a stuffed animal,” he told ABC News. “People tell me, ‘My daughter slept with this bear for three years. My daughter slept with this doggie for two years.'”
It all started for him at the age of nine, helping his father with deliveries for the linen company. One of those deliveries was to the Michigan State Fair.
“When we were done working at 12 o’clock, I’d start to play the carnival games,” he recalls. “I started to play and was able to win quite rapidly at all the throwing games — darts, quarters on plates. I developed technique as time went on. I once won 200 animals in two hours.
“They called me ‘The Magic Kid,'” he said.
From there, he only improved — and figured out a way for his skills to make a difference for kids around the country.
“I was winning maybe 1,000 to 2,000 a year, not even trying, not even taking my abilities to the next level,” he said. “Around 1972 or 1973 I started to win around 5,000 to 6,000 a year, so eventually I gave them away to charities, Special Olympics, Toys for Tots, elementary schools. It just goes on and on and on. To churches, any type of community event, I was always donating animals.”
“One time I donated these big gorillas to a foundation for burned kids, children with burns,” he said. “They all come back with thank yous, great stories, pictures of the kids with the animals. There’s just so many instances of it.
“I wish I could win an animal for every child on this earth that needs one.”
Drakos estimated he’s won about 250,000 toys over the years.
At his day job, the man who likes to go by the name Magic works as a car salesman at Don Massey Cadillac in Plymouth, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. Naturally, his customers get a special surprise when they purchase one of his automobiles.
“Every car we deliver has a stuffed animal in the cars,” he says. “People don’t even take it out.”
In fact, the carnival ringer has won so much and so often that some carnival managers have imposed limits on him.
“I can go clean out a whole carnival, but they limit my play. One time there was 140 animals and I think I won them in 30 minutes,” he says. “I used to wipe out a whole entire booth in 15 minutes but now they won’t let me.”
He says he now plays approximately 25 times a year — not for any fame or fortune, but for the sake of the kids.
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I do this because I want to do it, not for any acclaim,” he said. “Recently it snowballed. It’s a do-good story and maybe other people might be able to see this and do something, too.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
John Newsome, CNN
Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy, CNN
Tara Bench, KSL.com
Christopher Lett, CNN