After retiring from the army after 26 years, Mike, now 72 years old, and his wife Judy became members of a woodworking club.
It started off as a pastime, but after seeing the joy that their handcrafted toys brought to families in the community over the holiday season, they decided to make it their full-time occupation.
Even now, after seven years, the two individuals continue to produce toys at a rate that would put Santa’s elves to shame in terms of productivity.
While Judy is in charge of the decoration and quality control, Mike is in charge of the production of the toys. Their 15 grandchildren, as well as their four great-grandchildren, act as testers and focus group participants.
The passion for carpentry that Mike Sullivan has carried on in his family for generations. Sullivan grew up in Montana. His father worked in the mines.
Due to the fact that the family did not have a lot of money, the majority of the Christmas presents that he got as a boy were handcrafted by his two older brothers, who were both carpenters.
“The majority of the items I received were handcrafted toys. According to what he shared with CNN, “They were beautiful toys, and I know how much I adored them; I only hope that kids who get them now will still appreciate them.”
This year, the pandemic meant that many families did not have the finances to handle non-essential expenses, which made the mission of the Sullivans more crucial than it had ever been before.
Mike and Judy were up to the challenge, as seen by their production and distribution of close to 1,400 toys. These toys included, to name only a few examples, animal figures, puzzles, and vehicles.
The couple persisted despite the fact that COVID-19 required them to maintain a social distance, disguise their identities, and adhere to a strict schedule.
The Sullivans generously donated the toys they had collected over the years to various philanthropic groups in the community, including a food pantry, the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, and a local kindergarten class (including postage for items sent out of state as far as Indiana and Texas).
In light of the fact that the Sullivans’ out-of-pocket expenses for the previous year were projected to be close to $19,000, they decided to set up a GoFundMe page in order to assure that they would be able to keep the supply of toys flowing.
(Mike’s goal is to boost his production by investing in a 3-D laser printer, which he hopes to do in the near future.)
Mike and Judy stated that they have every intention of carrying on with the production of toys for as long as they are able to.
According to Sullivan’s interview with CNN, the two of them “are both in good condition and are able to stay out here six to seven days a week for eight to 10 hours.”
“We are having a great time, and it almost feels like we are at home here in the shop hammering things out.”
Mike is the first to say that even though they very rarely get the opportunity to watch the children open their presents, the fact that they do so in the knowledge that a family’s Christmas would be much happier as a result of their efforts makes it all worthwhile.
“It makes me feel very extremely warm within. Judy stated to KESQ-TV News 3 that she adores it. “If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t alter a thing.”
And it is precisely that mentality that ensures Christmas is celebrated not just on December 25 but all 365 days of the year.