Man spreads joy with handmade wooden toys for kids in need

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 27, 2013 at 8:42 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 28 at 11:35 AM

With the hectic holiday rush on in his house, Vern Heinle retreats to his woodshop where he finds his joy.

"Good morning tools. I'm here. We're gonna start working today," he said.

This is actually how Heinle greets the tools of his trade every day: A celebration of the simple things.

A lifelong woodworker, he still has all 10 fingers, but admittedly two left feet.

"Two left feet, you're right. But I have a good time," he said.

Heinle 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.

"One of my brothers spent all day pushing a tire around," he said.

Now, Heinle is determined that no child use a tire as a toy.

His woodshop is a Santa's workshop of sorts.

"I don't ever pass myself off as a Santa Claus, but I'm always called one of Santa's toymakers," said Heinle.

Every year he makes hundreds of toys for needy children.

"I build toys. I don't care who knows it," Heinle said.

His toys are simple. Built by hand, wood blocks, not X-Box.

The simple things are the things that are really treasured.

In many ways Heinle is still that poor farm boy from North Dakota. A grown man who still appreciates the magic of a toy race car.

"When you can play with a toy you're in heaven," said Heinle.

Heaven is a place he wants kids to experience here on earth, because at 80 years old he knows how short life can be.

Heinle has cancer. His time is limited, but he will spend it dancing in his workshop and spreading his joy.

"It gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling," Heinle said.

"It's not what you take with you. It's what you leave behind," he said.

Heinle has made about 1,000 toys over the past six years for the "Forgotten Children's Fund."

They'll be collecting donations Friday at the Apple Cup at Husky Stadium.

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