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Toy factory run by volunteers continues legacy of giving away toys to children in need for free

Tiny Tim's Factory was started 26 years ago by Alton Thacker, 87, a retired barber.

Toy factory run by volunteers continues legacy of giving away toys to children in need for free
Cover Image Source: Facebook | (L) Quality Water Treatment; (R) Tiny Tom's Factory

As a child, have you ever imagined walking into a place full of toys and you are allowed to pick and choose the ones you want all for free? That's Tiny Tim's Toy Foundation for any child. They gift children in need around the world wooden cars with painted smiles. Their factory is located in West Jordan, Utah. 


The toy factory was started 26 years ago by Alton Thacker, 87, a retired barber. He sent out the initiative's millionth toy in 2018. He celebrated the moment and went back to work - that's the sort of dedication he has. Speaking to The Washington Post, Thacker said, "For every car, we finish and give away, there's always another child who needs one. For some kids around the world, one of our little wooden cars is the first and only toy they'll ever get."

The foundation makes about 80,000 to 120,000 wooden toy cars in a year with the help of volunteers who are mainly retirees, on average about 80 years old, and want to be part of a good cause.


Wade Bender, 78, a retired high school biology teacher and football coach, said that the "highlight" of his week is "coming to the factory to help sand cars." He drives about 60 miles round trip to Tony Tim's every Tuesday. He said that the cars are made with a block of scrap wood which is a simple thing but the impact is huge. He added that the reaction to getting these cars is the same among children even if it's in a children's hospital, a restaurant, a tough neighborhood in the U.S. or a developing country.


These cars are sent to various countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Ghana, Thailand, Russia, Mexico and Brazil. "Kids will drop to the floor and start 'driving' them on the concrete, the tile, the dirt," Bender said. "The response of pure joy is always the same."

The factory makes the toys using wood donated by local lumber yards and cabinetmakers. The rent for the factory space and the money to buy paint and brushes comes from donations. They have about 35 volunteers and also get help from churches and civic and Boy Scout groups. 


The idea to start this initiative came to Thacker and his wife Cheryl in 1996, when they decided to convert donated planks into toy cars. And the name? It came from a boy called Tiny Tim, a malnourished and disabled boy they met on a trip to Mexico in the 1990s.

Fast forward to 2022, Thacker and his wife Cheryl decided to retire, according to Cheryl said, "I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when I saw that little girl with that car. And I saw how much joy it brought to her. We had no idea what we were going to grow to be. We just saw a need for little kids to have toys."

The duo passed on the company to her daughter Ashley Krause and granddaughter Emilee Johnson. "Ashley and Emilee are just, they're going to take it beyond what we ever dreamed," Cheryl said.

A retirement party was held for the two on November 2. There was also an auction for handmade crafts, wooden toys, quilts and gift baskets. Thacker said, "My heart is up here in my throat. So I am not going to say anymore, other than thank you, thank you for making this possible." 

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