Kentucky ‘Santa’ brings smiles to kids in need around the world

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OWENSBORO, Kentucky (CNN) — You could call Clyde Fogle the Kentucky “Santa.”

For almost a decade, the 73-year-old from Owensboro, Kentucky, has been making wooden toys and donating them to Operation Christmas Child. Run by the nonprofit Samaritan’s Purse and celebrating its 20th anniversary, the program delivers gift-filled shoeboxes to needy children in more than 130 countries. In addition to toys, boxes may also contain school supplies, hygiene items and notes of encouragement.

“I’ve seen pictures and videos of those children receiving the toys. I see in the background how they liveand I see the joy and the happiness on their faces,” Fogle says with a smile. “It just captures my heart. I always enjoy being a part of that.”

It’s those images that keep the grandfather of six going. Six days a week, eight hours a day he heads to his backyard workshop to carve toys like cars, helicopters and animals. What makes Fogle’s task even more remarkable is that he does all this while battling muscular dystrophy.

“I have very little balance, almost zero balance,” he says. “I can’t stand at all without having something to hold on to or support. I can walk only very short distances without assistance or support of some type.”

Fogle was diagnosed with the disorder after he retired from his job at a local natural gas distributor. His woodworking hobby became a second career.

“At first I was doing some heavier woodworking, but then I knew I had to kind of downsize,” he says. “I wanted to do some good for the needy. I wanted to give of myself and I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do that.”

Then, in a catalog, he saw a kit to make 100 various toy cars and thought he’d give it a shot. Those toys ended up going to children in Haiti.

“I was introduced to a needand I was like OK, I’m going to make some more and some more and some more,” he says. “I look at it this way: God is love. We are commanded to love one another. I just think this is my way of spreading a little love to others.”

Fogle has donated around 100,000 wooden toys to Operation Christmas Child. He has a map in his workshop with a pin in every country where his toys have been distributed. One recent shipment was delivered to children in the Philippines, who continue to recover from the devastating typhoon that hit in November.

“If I get tired of doing this, which I do,” he says, “I look at that map. ‘Oh yeah that’s why I’m doing that.’ OK, so I keep going. Simple as that!”

He adds, “I would like to think that maybe I might be an inspiration to others that they might do something similar that would have an overall effect making the world a better place. One child at a time or one person at a time.”

To find out how you can make an impact through Operation Christmas Child, please visit the Samaritan’s Purse website. Shoebox gifts are accepted throughout the year at the charity’s headquarters in North Carolina.

By Jennifer Grubb, CNN

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