Since 2000 the Denver based non-profit organization has sent over 154,000 toys to kids in 60 countries. It was that year that Marlin Dorhout and friend Ben Perri traveled to Nicaragua to work with Habitat for Humanity. The director of HH asked the two men if they would bring some toys for the kids. “We didn”t want to bring battery-operated toys,” said Dorhout, “so Ben designed these wooden cars and I had the woodworking skills and tools to make them.” When Dorhout arrived in Nicaragua he handed out 120 of his handmade wooden toys. “I became the most popular person in the village,” he said, recalling the overwhelming response that came from the happy children. “After that, I knew what I wanted to do.” Upon returning home to Denver, Dorhout officially founded the Toys for God”s Kids. He recruited a group of World War II veterans to help cut, assemble, and sand the wooden pieces and more recently has also been working with nursing homes and retirement centers to work on some of the toys. Dorhout spoke highly and often about the volunteers, “They all care about other human beings, especially children…when they see photos of those kids they feel so good about what they”re doing.” Not only is Toys for God”s Kids made up entirely of volunteers, it has no budget. Much of the wood used for the toys is scrap lumber donated by Stairs Inc. in Louisville and Masterpiece Stairs in Denver. Worldwide distribution is through relief organizations, church groups, airline pilots, soldiers ” virtually anyone or group who wants to pack a box or suitcase of the wooden treasures. Last month Dorhout was contacted by Carl Piazza of Pentagon Cargo of the Rockies who offered to ship 1260 toys to kids in the Philippines ” this month he will ship another 1800 to arrive in time for the holidays. Photos and thank-you notes are often sent to Toys for God”s Kids from around the globe by grateful social workers, children and parents – and once he even got a phone call. “The call came from Mexico – I had a hard time understanding the guy, but his daughter came home with a toy with our phone number stamped on the bottom, and he was so grateful he called to say thanks.” “The feedback illustrates how little these kids have, but also how important toys are to kids,” he added as he pointed out the more obvious comparison for the need of food, clothing and medicine, “Toys make them feel special, and they can also help kids develop planning, problem-solving, and social skills.” Toys for God”s Kids goal is “to place a toy in the hand of every needy child”, and Dorhout and Co. sends toys to all parts of the world regardless of religion or political strife or differences. He gave an example of the almost 7,000 toys sent to Iraq and Afghanistan to date. “We never hold a child responsible for some silly idea their parents or leaders have,” Dorhout said with a slight smile and twinkle in his eyes, then continued in a more serious tone. “We don”t proselytize, there are volunteers who help that are not religious at all, but they”re wonderful people.” He said that he believes in God, and that the name of the organization had brought more support than obstacles. “I”m not one of zealots that say, “If you don”t believe in God you don”t count.” I have been taught that everyone is God”s child.” Dorhout, a retiree from Gates Rubber Company, spends many hours a week working to bring joy to children whom he most likely will never meet. “This is good for me too, I”m staying too busy to get bitter,” he said with a laugh. “I”m having a lot of fun, and every one of us feels very proud to be making these toys. We call ourselves the “smile makers”.” If you are interested in Toys for God”s Kids and would like to help in some way email Toys for God’s Kids or call 303-733-2284. More information is also on the internet at Toys For God’s Kids.

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