This 26-year Military veteran and his spouse have spent a lot of the final decade making toys in a woodshop behind their home.
It is a labor of affection that began as a interest.
“After retirement, I obtained bored and wanted one thing to do,” 72-year-old Mike Sullivan instructed CNN.
The couple joined a woodworking membership and certainly one of their tasks was to construct toys for youths.
“Christmas time, we had an opportunity to see the youngsters get the toys and see how a lot pleasure it was,” mentioned Sullivan.
They have been hooked.
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Seven years and hundreds of toys later
What began as a interest seven years in the past was a mission to offer away their handmade toys to folks and their youngsters.
Mike and Judy Sullivan spend almost on daily basis within the store.
“We’re each in good well being and are in a position to be out right here six to seven days per week for eight to 10 hours,” Sullivan mentioned.
“It is a lot enjoyable, it appears like house right here within the store working issues out.”
And it is one thing the couple, who simply celebrated their fiftieth wedding ceremony anniversary, take pleasure in doing collectively.
Mike buys the lumber, the drill bits and saws and makes the patterns — slicing and sanding away.
Judy is high quality management and decorator.
“I run my palms over all of the toys and really feel for one thing that is not alleged to be there — a unfastened wheel or splinter,” mentioned Judy. She additionally spray paints and decorates.
“The designs type of come up in my head after I see the toys,” the 71-year-old mentioned.
On a mission to consolation youngsters in want
This yr, their toys have been particularly wanted with so many mother and father out of labor as a result of impression of the coronavirus pandemic on the financial system.
The Sullivans give away most of the toys outdoors their house within the Coachella Valley.
They’re further cautious scheduling of us at intervals to return take a look at the toys.
“We attempt to implement protected distancing and masking,” mentioned Mike.
This week, they’re delivering a whole bunch of toys to a kindergarten class, the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission and a church meals pantry. They’ve mailed toys as far-off as Indiana and Texas. Not solely are the toys free, however the couple pays for the transport though, they admit, that is getting robust.
“So long as I can afford it, I can ship them the place I can,” he mentioned.
Rescue mission growth director Scott Wolf says the couple has donated their handmade toys for a few years at Christmastime, and the youngsters love them.
“We’re going to give them to the youngsters in our household shelter to play with of their toy room and their playrooms.”
The Sullivans’ toys can even be distributed to youngsters throughout a drive-thru giveaway with social distancing, “ensuring everyone seems to be protected and pleased and wholesome.”
Couple’s 15 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren are toy testers
“All my children and grandkids and great-grandkids get my toys,” mentioned Mike Sullivan. And typically they soar the gun.
The couple makes trains, automobiles, vans, pull and push toys (little alligators, elephants), geese you placed on a string and pull alongside behind you.
Additionally they make academic toys: alphabet puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, stackers with totally different measurement blocks on a pole.
“They’re continuously coming by the store and toys simply disappear with the youngsters.”
Judy Sullivan mentioned they watch them play with the toys and see what they like and don’t love about them. “In the event that they drop a toy on the ground and break the pinnacle of a duck, we higher reinforce that.”
Whereas wooden could appear old school, Sullivan’s daughter, Sierra, says her 2-year-old son would not suppose so.
“He is obtained all kinds of toys and his favourite factor he performs with is the prepare my dad made him and the stacker he carries round with him in every single place.”
Vietnam vet will get pleasure many instances over
Mike says whereas he is stuffed with shrapnel from his service, that does not sluggish him down within the toy manufacturing unit.
“You need to adapt and overcome.” He refuses to cost for his toys. Perhaps it is as a result of he is aware of what it is like to not have a lot cash.
“My dad was a miner, we have been significantly poor,” mentioned the retired Military first sergeant, who grew up in Montana.
His older brothers have been each carpenters and made toys for him when he was a baby.
“Many of the issues I obtained have been handmade toys. They have been great toys, I understand how a lot I loved them and simply hope that youngsters that get them now nonetheless do.”
His dad and brothers have lengthy since handed away. “I am the final of the household,” mentioned Mike, who fought within the Vietnam Warfare and Desert Storm.
However these recollections follow him and he inherited their love of wooden. “We do it for individuals who are much less lucky than we are actually.”
Their daughter says her mother and father spent $19,000 out of pocket final yr on provides (she does their taxes). The woodworking membership the couple belongs to usually contributes one other $3,000. However attributable to pressures from the pandemic, the membership simply cannot chip on this yr.
“We do not exit rather a lot or spend rather a lot on issues which are frivolous,” mentioned Sullivan.
Mike hopes anybody who desires a Christmas current subsequent yr will attain out to him, and he’ll do his finest to get it to them, wherever they’re.
He desires to purchase a laser printer in order that he could make double the toys they did this yr.
“We’re a few previous grandmas and grandpas doing what we do finest,” mentioned Judy. “That is all there may be to it.”