80-year-old hand-makes toys for needy children

    7:58 AM, Nov 28, 2013   |    comments
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    KENT, WA (CNN) -- He doesn't claim to be Santa, but he does have a workshop fit for toy-making. A Washington state man is on a mission to bring joy to kids this holiday season one custom-made wooden toy at a time.

    With the hectic holiday rush on in his house, Vern Heinle retreats to his woodshop where he finds his joy. He greets his tools every day saying, "Good morning tools. I'm here. We're gonna start working today."

    It's a celebration of the simple things, a lifelong woodworker he still has all 10 fingers, but admittedly two left feet.

    Vern grew up in a poor farming family in North Dakota where a Christmas treat was an orange and a toy was whatever you could get your hands on. He says, "One of my brothers spent all day pushing a tire around."

    Now, Vern is determined that no kid use a tire as a toy. Vern's woodshop is now a Santa's workshop of sorts. He said, "I don't ever pass myself off as a Santa Claus, but I'm always called one of Santa's toymakers."

    Every year he makes hundreds of toys for needy children. His toys are simple and built by hand. Vern said, "The simple things are the things that are really treasured."

    In many ways Vern is still that poor farm boy from North Dakota; a grown man who still appreciates the magic of a toy race car. He said, "When you can play with a toy you're in heaven."

    Heaven is a place Vern wants kids to experience here on earth, because at 80-years-old he knows how short life can be. Vern has cancer. His time is limited, but he will spend it dancing in his workshop and spreading his joy. He said, "It gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling. It's not what you take with you. It's what you leave behind."

    Vern has made about a thousand toys over the past six years for the "Forgotten Children's Fund."

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