GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) — When Rick Brunner turned on the news, he saw a group of Ukrainian children watching a movie. And it sparked an idea.
"I said 'hey, I’m a wooden toy maker," he said. "'I make a crayon car that’s an activity car. I need to pull these kids away from that TV. What can I do?'"
So back in March, Brunner and his volunteers sent almost 900 toy cars to a country at war.
"It was just a major tear-jerker," he said. "It was great."
Now, he’s going for Round Two.
Rick’s Toybox in Green Bay is sending at least 300 wooden toy activity cars to refugee children in Ukraine.
"They’re gonna get a pack of colors and they’re gonna sit there at the table, suck on a sucker and color on this car and maybe just turn off the surroundings around them," Brunner said.
The nonprofit owner asks experienced and novice volunteers to help him with the creation process. And it gives him a chance to mentor local youth.
"They made cars that are going, wooden toys, that are going half way around the world to a child where they lost everything," Brunner said.
His materials are donated by sponsors, and the deadline to finish the latest batch is July 20.
"The limitations are they’re going in the suitcase this time," Brunner said.
Specifically, Greg Young’s suitcases. The mental health professional was going to Ukraine to perform moral trauma lectures anyway.
"We will probably give most of Rick’s toys, his toy trucks, to kids [in Dnipro] because they have a lot of kids there," Young said. "Dnipro has become kind of a hub through which we’re doing a lot of things."
With the toys in hand, Young heads to an airport in Poland in mid-august.
"If we can do some good, even for a few people, then it’s worthwhile," he said. "And that’s really the why."
Before his July deadline, Brunner says he could use some extra assistance to get the gifts ready.
"As we’re sitting there making these toys, maybe we can solve the world problems," he said.