Woodworker gives back by donating handmade toys to needy children

The man has created about a thousand toys over the past six years. (Source: KING/CNN)
The man has created about a thousand toys over the past six years. (Source: KING/CNN)

KENT, WA (KING/CNN) - He doesn't claim to be Santa, but he does have a workshop fit for toy-making.

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 going to start working today," Heinle said. This is actually how he greets the tools of his trade every day: a celebration of the simple things.

He 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," Heinle said. Now, he is determined that no kid use a tire as a toy.

His woodshop is now 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," he said.

Every year, he makes hundreds of toys for needy children.

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

His toys are simple, built by hand, wood blocks not Xbox.

"A child can say, 'I'm a racecar driver. I can drive and I can go fast.' The simple things are the things that are really treasured," he said.

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

"When you can play with a toy, you're in Heaven," he said.

Heaven is a place Heinle wants kids to experience here on Earth, because at 80 years old he knows how short life can be. He 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 has made about a thousand toys over the past six years for the Forgotten Children's Fund.

Copyright 2013 KING via CNN. All rights reserved.