MOMBASA, Kenya (ABC 4 Utah) - A little boy in a rehab clinic in Mombasa, Kenya, takes a small wooden car and rolls it back and forth on the floor. Nearby another child has his car in hand spinning the wheels.
The team of 30 volunteers from the World of Difference foundation took gifts with them to Kenya. Some of those gifts were made by the non-profit Happy Factory in Cedar City.
Upon our return from Kenya, I visited the Happy Factory on a Wednesday evening as gymnasts from Southern Utah University were putting the finishing touches on another batch of wooden cars and trucks.
They painted them with mineral oil. It seals the wood and is non-toxic so there’s no harm if one ends up in a child’s mouth.
Donna Cooley told me, “I’ve fallen in love with these little children all over the world.” Donna and her late husband, Charles, started the Happy Factory in their garage.
“We started making toys for our grandkids. Then, we only had four grandkids so we ran out of grandkids and then we made all these toys and took them up to the Primary Children’s Medical Center. “
Others got involved in the toy making and in 1998; the Happy Factory was incorporated as an official, non-profit charity making toys for delivery to 158 countries.
To date, they’ve made 1-point-2 million toys.
“It’s truly a community effort,” said Zurl Thornock, a retired banker and one of the Happy Factory trustees. “We have a number of businesses that contribute parts and pieces from the lumber that comes from a couple of cabinet companies to the mineral oil comes from a local pharmacy.”
Donna explained, “We have no payroll. “It takes all of these wonderful volunteers to keep it going. It takes everybody with their love – and they come with love here.”
And perhaps because of that, the charity thrives on few rules. Volunteers come when they want, work as long as they want with no quotas and no pressure. Each volunteer is motivated only by the joy of creating something that will find its way into the hands of a child in need, such as those children in Mombasa.
Donna sums up the philosophy of the Happy Factory, “We take some wood that would be wasted and mix it with time that would be wasted and make a toy to stimulate a little mind so it won’t be wasted.”