Retired Mike Sullivan and his wife, Judy, have been distributing custom toys from their shed in Desert Hot Springs, California, for over a decade.
“After retirement, I got bored and needed something to do,” Mike, 72, told CNN of how they got started.
The two joined a local woodworking club seven years ago and it has since become a deep-seated love.
One of the pair’s first projects at the club was to construct toys for kids for Christmas and upon watching the kids receive them and “how much joy it was,” it has since become an annual tradition.
This year, they built 1,400 toys to gift to kiddos around the country.
“It’s so much fun, it feels like home here in the shop working things out,” Mike added.
The two spend most days there together at about 50-70 hours a week.
“We’re both in good health and are able to be out here six to seven days a week for eight to 10 hours,” he said.
The two even have their own respective roles. Mike purchases the supplies, such as lumber and drill bits, and physically crafts the toys — while Judy manages the quality control and paints the toys.
“I run my hands over all the toys and feel for something that’s not supposed to be there — a loose wheel or splinter,” Judy, 71, told CNN.
She added how when she spray paints the wooden creations, “The designs sort of come up in my head when I see the toys.”
And when it comes to Judy’s quality control, the Sullivans’ 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren do their part.
“They’re constantly coming by the shop and toys just disappear with the kids,” said Mike, whose wooden creations include trains and cars, classic push-and-pull toys in the shape of animals, jigsaw puzzles, stacking blocks and more.
The toys are then donated locally, and when they can afford it, the Sullivans will ship nationally as well.
They also pay out of pocket for all the supplies as well as shipping. Last year, the total amount came to $19,000, according to their daughter, who files their taxes, confirmed to CNN.
And while their woodworking club donates $3,000 annually, due to the financial strain of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the club was unable to do so this year.
“We don’t go out a lot or spend a lot on things that are frivolous,” said Mike.
But after some push from their own children, the couple started a GoFundMe to help cover some of the costs, particularly the wheels and axles for the cars, which can be expensive.
“We’re a couple of old grandmas and grandpas doing what we do best,” said Judy. “That’s all there is to it.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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