Metro-East News

The fad isn’t over yet. Belleville grandma goes to five stores to find fidget spinner.

Talk about determined. Donna Monroe recently drove to five stores in St. Clair County to find what is still the most wanted gadget in the country — a fidget spinner.

Until last week, the small piece of spinning plastic had seemed impossible to find.

Monroe, a Belleville resident, drove to O’Fallon for a fidget spinner. She walked away empty handed at Walmart. The patient grandmother went to Belleville’s Walmart store, too. But fidget spinners weren’t on the shelf.

She came up short at Walgreens — twice.

“I don’t know that much about them,” she said. “With young kids, if they want it, we get it.”

Her grandson Evan King wanted a fidget spinner of his own. His middle school friends had one, and she figured it would be a nice present to mark his eighth grade graduation.

That’s why she drove from Evan’s ceremony in Mascoutah to Ben’s in downtown Belleville still in search of a spinner. Her quest ended there.

The craft store, much to Monroe and Evan’s delight, had fidget spinners in stock. Her grandson seemed happy. Monroe seemed a bit confused by the phenomenon, and she isn’t alone.

In the past few weeks, fidget spinners have become the most popular toy in the country. The toy, invented nearly 20 years ago by Florida resident and engineer Catherine Hettinger, continues to pick up speed — literally.

The harder you flick a fidget spinner, the faster it goes, leaving users memorized by the spinning piece of plastic.

Fidget spinners became available at Ben’s in March.

“We bought 24 for the first time, and those sold out within a few days,” said Ben’s store manager Beth Wamble. More than 1,000 have sold since then. More are on the way.

“I really think this is going to last for a while,” Wamble said. “The industry is doing things to keep it going. Lots of new things are coming out.”

The craft store expects to have St. Louis Cardinals fidget spinners soon.

In the meantime, fidget spinners continue to pop up at unexpected retail locations in the metro-east. Home Brite Ace Hardware on North Illinois Street in downtown Belleville decided to add the item to its inventory a few weeks ago.

Store owner Lyle Rowden took the advice of his 18-year-old daughter and put fidget spinners on the shelf.

“The item just took off,” Rowden said. “I had to order more.”

After selling a few hundred, Rowden requested 300 more for his store.

Kid and adult customers can’t seem to get enough of the product originally intended for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD, and other concentration issues.

In Belleville District 201, more than 100 students use some kind of fidget. Long before fidget spinners became popular, public school students with special needs used stress balls, spinning tops and other gadgets in the classroom as learning aids.

Chris Gibson, an autism learning behavior specialist for the district, said the craze has raised awareness about the use of fidgets.

But while Gibson has seen the benefits of using fidgets, she also recognizes that fidget spinners could be a distraction for some students.

When students fidgets “the classroom setting is still very structured,” Gibson said.

But now that school is out for the summer, the use of fidget spinners is less of a problem for teachers and more of a concern for some parents who worry about safety.

Two swallowing incidents led to warnings from the Consumer Product Safety Commission about the product. Children have swallowed parts of the toy, causing concerns.

In the metro-east, no injuries have been reported, but Wamble tells costumers at Ben’s to proceed with caution if your child often puts objects in their mouth.

“Every family has to know their own children,” Wamble said.

Even with warnings, fidget spinners continue to fly off of store shelves around the country.

Cara Anthony: 618-239-2471, @CaraRAnthony