Toys for God’s Kids began in early 2000 after Marlin Dorhout returned from a Habitat for Humanity mission trip to Nicaragua. He had taken with him some little wooden cars and trucks to give to the children in the village where they were building homes. When he saw the joy and excitement on the faces of children who had no other toys, Marlin decided to make this his retirement mission.
Discovering that more than two billion kids in our world live in poverty and have nothing of their own, Marlin began making more toys. The first year, he and seven friends made about 4000 of them. Publicity by NBC Nightly News, The Denver Post, and other local newspapers and magazines attracted other volunteers.
People who took the little cars around the world sent back pictures of smiling kids holding their new toys, and the toy makers themselves were smiling too. So the volunteers began to call themselves “Smilemakers.”
In 2001, Toys for God’s Kids became an established non-profit charity. Marlin’s little red truck was often seen around Denver, gathering supplies, and picking up and delivering toys to people who were distributing them to children around the world. By 2009, there were over fifty toy makers in the Denver area, and as many in other states. By 2010, 300,000 toys had been sent abroad.
In order to ensure that the charity would survive beyond their lifetimes, the Dorhouts converted their family foundation into a public non-profit organization. Marlin remains involved as founder and president, and Marlene and their son Bret are board members. They hope that Toys for God’s Kids will continue indefinitely so that someday perhaps all of God’s kids will have their own special toy.
Toys for God’s Kids partners with many wonderful organizations: Hope Haven International Ministries, Samaritan’s Purse, and hundreds of other charities and churches. Currently about 200 people are involved in some way. Our goal is to soon produce 500,000 cars a year, almost as many as were made in the first twelve years. Maybe two billion isn’t an impossible goal!