Ryan’s donation to Toys for Tots, finally!

Posted by Ryans Dad on 18th December 2009
Ryan Steadman and Marine LCpl Danbach

Ryan Steadman and Marine LCpl Danbach

Delayed a bit by some uncooperative weather, Ryan was able to make his second donation of Easy Builder building blocks this week. This donation was to Toys for Tots and was great fun. Toys for Tots representative Marine LCpl Danbach came to Ryan’s 1st grade classroom at Vestal Hills Elementary School, in dress blue uniform no less!

Ryan had a total of 51 complete sets of his building blocks on hand to give to Toys for Tots. In addition to that, his 1st grade teacher Mrs. Finch and the class added some more toys to the donation. The class has been following Ryan’s efforts to support charity and his teacher has used this to help teach about leadership and charitable giving. It’s been great to see Mrs. Finch and her class be so supportive, thank you! The school even added some photos from the day to their web site for all to see.

News 10 Now and WBNG News crews, on hand to capture the event

News 10 Now and WBNG News crews, on hand to capture the event

The school district had contacted local media about the donation so there was also some TV coverage of the event. This added a certain degree of excitement for the class on top of the Marine in uniform. Our cable news channel News 10 Now did a very nice story about the donation that Ryan made which you can view online from their web site.

The 1st grade class enjoyed the visit from LCpl Danbach thoroughly and they all behaved very well throughout. LCpl Danbach took time to talk with the class answering questions about Toys for Tots as well as a few about his experience in the Marines. I have to say he was quite skilled at addressing their inquiries carefully regardless of the nature of each question. It was evident this was not his first experience with kids.

The kids had some time to check out the building block sets as did LCpl Danbach. Then the TV reporters did some interviews with Ryan, LCpl Danbach and myself. Most importantly, Ryan got to make one more donation of his building block sets which made him very happy. With a smile, Ryan mentioned that it was a fun thing to know that on Christmas morning some kids somewhere would be opening a present that he had made. Then they would play with them and have fun. A nice thought indeed.

18Dec

One goal achieved, giving away blocks!

Posted by Ryans Dad on 10th December 2009
Ryan at SOS Shelter board meeting

Ryan attends SOS Shelter board meeting

Today was the day on which Ryan finally got to deliver dozens of Easy Builder building block sets to charity. Ryan was invited to attend the monthly board meeting for SOS Shelter, one of the charities he decided to support by providing his building block sets as a donation.

Thanks to the help of over 100 volunteers who attended our Work Builders Block Party in November, Ryan was able to donate 51 sets of his blocks to SOS Shelter. We took Ryan and his blocks to their board meeting and the donation happened there. Before the meeting began we filled the conference table with sets of blocks for the board members to see.

Ryan was first on their agenda for the meeting so after a brief introduction Ryan opened up a set of blocks for them to see. Then the board members were all encouraged to open up a set of the blocks sitting on the table in front of them and check them out hands-on. Ryan enjoyed watching them “playing” with the blocks and they seemed to like the donation he made. A few of the board members had a question or two for Ryan and after that we were on our way.

As we headed home with the block sets left behind, I asked Ryan what he thought of the evening. He simply said that he “felt good”. I sort of felt that way too.

10Dec

Work Builders Block Party was a great success!

Posted by Ryans Dad on 23rd November 2009
A great day for Ryan and his charities!

A great day for Ryan and his charities!

What a great day it was for our family! On Saturday (Nov. 21) we held Ryan’s Work Builders Block Party and everything went great. We had over 100 people attend and help with our project. By days end we finished over 1,200 building blocks which would fill out more than 100 complete sets of Easy Builder building blocks for charity!

We are so grateful to Binghamton University for providing a place for our event to be held and to the Binghamton Circle K student volunteer organization in particular, who supported our effort as university sponsors for the event. Without Circle K’s sponsorship we would not have been able to hold the event on BU campus.

Many-studentsThe room was bustling with activity all day long and the energy was great. We had volunteers helping out from all age groups and all backgrounds. There were many Binghamton University students, Vestal Elementary School students and parents, Cub Scout members, professional colleagues, family friends and many others who heard about the event and made the time in their schedules to come and help.

Ryan was so energized that it was all we could do to get him to take a moment to eat a sandwich. He was busy showing people how to do the painting then took over moving hundreds of blocks to and from the outdoor painting area.

Collin hands out stickers!

Collin hands out stickers!

His younger brother Collin spent the entire day greeting everyone who attended, giving them stickers and big smiles. If you were here on Saturday it is a good bet Collin “stickered” you before you left.

Over the next few days or week perhaps, we will be packaging all of the 1,200+ building blocks into the Easy Builders cloth bags in preparation for donation to Toys for Tots and SOS Shelter. I have been in touch with both of these charities and they are thrilled and look forward to our donations. Doing that will be great fun and I am looking forward to seeing the look on Ryan’s face when he gives them his building block sets. It is what he has been working towards all along.

There are so many people to thank for helping to make Ryan’s vision become a reality it is hard to know where to begin. But here are a few I would like to mention in hopes I am not leaving anyone out.

At some point of the day during the Work Builders Block Party on Saturday Ryan came to me quite happy and said, “Daddy, I want to do this again… next week!” Well, we can’t quite manage something like that, but maybe again next year, who knows.

23Nov

Daddy? Why are all these people helping us so much?

Posted by Ryans Dad on 18th November 2009

This was the question Ryan posed to me this evening, “Daddy? Why are all these people helping us so much?”. A fair question to be sure since in the last 12 days we have had the Johnson family lend us woodworking tools, numerous staff of Binghamton University spending countless hours to help us find a home for our event, 3i Graphics donating signage and at least two different Binghamton University student volunteer groups asking to be involved. Beyond that we have had many, many people telling us they plan to come on Saturday to participate in our Work Builders Block Party. So, a  fair question indeed.

What struck me in his question was his sincerity. He simply doesn’t realize just how special it is, what he is doing. So, he does not understand why so many people want to pitch in and help. He is excited about Saturday’s event not because he will personally get anything out of it or from any expectations of play or “party”. He is excited because people will be helping us make more blocks and that means more to give to Toys for Tots and SOS Shelter. Now I know I am biased as his dad, but really, there is something special there.

But back to Ryan’s question, why are all these people helping us so much? To answer his question I found myself explaining what it means “to inspire”. Put simply, I told him that all of these people have seen what he is doing and they think it is good, especially coming from a 6yr old. They are  moved by his good intentions to the point that they feel they want to help and be a part of it in some way. They have been inspired.

I think he understands now, why all of these people are helping us. But at the same time I do not believe he thinks he is doing anything overly special. For him, this is just what he does and it is fun. And that, is a good thing.

18Nov

Visiting United Way and learning about LIVE UNITED

Posted by Ryans Dad on 13th November 2009

Yesterday my wife and I escorted Ryan on a visit to the offices of the United Way of Broome County located here in Vestal, NY. After the Staff and Board of Directors learned of Ryan’s intention to support United Way, they extended an invitation for him to visit.

Ryan showing off his LIVE UNITED shirt!

Ryan showing off his LIVE UNITED shirt!

On the way to their offices Ryan was full of questions about the United Way. What charities do they help? Would they want his building blocks? What does “LIVE UNITED” mean? All good questions and perfect for discussion during our visit.

We were hosted for the visit by Mr. Bruce Dudley, the Communications Director for United Way of Broome County. Mr. Dudley had lots of good questions for Ryan about his business and his building blocks. That was really great for helping Ryan to get comfortable with the visit. I notice that when ever Ryan is asked to talk about his building block business or better yet to show them to someone, his face lights up a bit and his shyness seems to fade. He really likes what he is doing.

We learned that United Way supports one of Ryan’s chosen charities, SOS Shelter. Ryan also learned that United Way supports a few other organizations which he is aware of or even involved with such as Boy Scouts of America and the JCC where Ryan had pre-school and now attends after school programming.

Ryan receives his own LIVE UNITED t-shirt

Ryan receives his own LIVE UNITED t-shirt

During the course of our visit Ryan also learned what “LIVE UNITED” means. Mr. Dudley explained by telling Ryan that “We all live in the world together and depend on one another. When we help one person we are helping everyone and that is what it means to LIVE UNITED”. He went on to tell Ryan the by doing what he is doing, supporting the United Way and other charities, he is LIVING UNITED too.

Then Mr. Dudley gave Ryan a gift, the LIVE UNITED t-shirt you see here. Ryan was delighted to have received the shirt. He had already seen some of these shirts. Over the last few weeks we had been researching various charity organizations with Ryan. While learning about United Way we watched their new videos which talk about LIVE UNITED.

I think by the time our visit was over Ryan was even more confident in his intent to support United Way. Every day is a learning opportunity in some way.

Categories: Charitable Giving
13Nov

Work Builders Block Party, YOU are invited!

Posted by Ryans Dad on 12th November 2009

Early on in the process of building his start-up business, Ryan told us that he wishes to support charity and he has remained steadfast in that mission ever since. Since then he has identified three charities to support in various ways, two of which he wishes to support by making a direct donation of his building blocks.

After contacting these charity organizations to learn if they will accept hand-made toys and if so how many, we learned that the answer to those questions in both cases Work Builders Block Party bannerwas a solid yes and “as many as you can provide”. This begged the question, “How many can we provide?”

Between the two of us we had an idea of what we could produce but we wondered if there might be a way to do more. So we talked and brainstormed together to try and figure out how we could make more, lots more. The result of that brainstorming is our “Work Builders Block Party”, and YOU are invited!

The Work Builders Block Party will take place on Saturday November 21, just over one week from now! This will be a volunteer effort to make as many sets of Easy Builder building blocks as we can in one day. Everything produced on that day will go directly to charity! So mark you calendar for November 21 and please plan to come. We need all the help we can get!

Between now and that date I will be cutting at least 500 wood blocks to have on hand for the project. The task for the day will be to sand the sharp/frayed edges so children will not get slivers and to spray paint them different colors that kids will enjoy. It is an easy task really, so bring a friend and spend a little time with us helping charity.

Our plan on Saturday Nov. 21 is to have a large window of time where you are invited to come and participate. You are welcome and encouraged to come for as much time as you can share whether that is 20 minutes or 3 hours. The final details of location and exact hours for the project are being finalized currently and I hope to have all of that information available to you very soon.

A lot of people have expressed interest in helping Ryan and I along with this project for charity. Now is the time so please plan to come to our Block Party, help us make some building blocks to go to kids this holiday season!

If you are planning to help us on Nov. 21st please drop us a note via email and let us know you are coming. If you have a group that might be interested in getting involved then please let us know as soon as possible. We’d love to have you there with us!

If the turnout seems good I may have to cut more blocks for the day. That would be a great problem to have! So continue to watch this blog and Ryan’s Web site for more details as our plans are finalized.

One other way someone may be able to help…

If you know of anyone who might be in a position to help with providing materials for this growing charity project, I would be grateful for help of that nature. As the scale of this seems to be growing so too does that side of the equation. The spray paint and the sanding tools (sanding blocks, sand paper) are the greatest expected expense. Please email me if you have any leads in this regard. Thank you!

12Nov

Our six year old entrepreneur plans to support charity

Posted by Ryans Dad on 4th November 2009

Early on in this process Ryan told me that he wanted to use some of his money to support charity. After much discussion over the last few weeks around our house Ryan has now decided on some charities that he plans to support. He has selected three charitable organizations to help with a variety of reasons for each one. It is a lofty goal that we will work towards together. Stay tuned, we may ask for your help along the way!

Ryans chosen charitiesFirst is Toys for Tots Syracuse NY. This was an obvious fit for Ryan and he liked the idea right away. His reason for choosing Toys for Tots was very simple. “They give toys to little kids that might not have any.” Ryan would like to provide some of his Easy Builder building block sets to Toys for Tots for distribution this holiday season. Although there is no local office for Toys for Tots in the Binghamton area, we may have some interesting plans in the works to facilitate Ryan’s donation.

Next on his list to support is the SOS Shelter here in Binghamton, NY. The SOS Shelter provides emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence in our community. Ryan learned of this organization from his mother as she explained that she has made donations to them in the past. He has a natural sense of empathy for all kinds of people in need and seemed to feel a connection here knowing of his mother’s previous support. Like Toys for Tots, Ryan plans to provide some of his Easy Builder building block sets to the SOS Shelter for the benefit of those families with children who find themselves in the care of the shelter. As he put it to me, “They need toys in case they left all their toys behind when they left their house”.

And last but most certainly not least is the United Way of Broome County. This may be the toughest one to manage some support for in that this will be monetary support. As such it will require that Work Builders become financially successful in order to facilitate making a donation. We are working on that! What attracts Ryan to the United Way is that, “They help lots of different charities”. That pretty much says it all.

Now I’ll put on my proud Dad cap and say I could not be more proud of Ryan for his sincere interest in helping others. This has given us great opportunities to discuss and learn about how fortunate we are as a family and how we can help others in our community. I will also repeat for the sake of clarity that this plan to support charity truly originates with Ryan. Where he gets this I can’t know. At his age I was probably most worried about which toy to play with next or picking on my younger brother. Although he does have his moments with his younger brother, in so many ways he amazes me on a daily basis!

4Nov

What would you pay for Easy Builder building blocks?

Posted by Ryans Dad on 28th October 2009

What would you expect to pay for a set of Easy Builder building blocks? Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

As the date approaches for Ryan’s story to air on WICZ FOX 40 TV I’ve had a growing concern, pricing. As things currently stand, we are simply not able to make any money. There just isn’t any profit margin. Maybe this is another learning opportunity with Ryan. So far I have truly left all final decisions throughout this endeavor to Ryan. The question of product pricing has been one he’s expressed strong opinions on from the start.

Ryan’s preference has been to keep the pricing of his blocks as low as possible, very low. His thinking? If the price is too high no one will buy the blocks. NO ONE. However, the pricing he started with was excessively low. $1.15 per set to be exact. At that time he was selling only through personal arrangements with his grade school friends who simply do not have any money to begin with. Even at pricing below $2.00 per set, the vast majority of those original sales were never paid for. It makes sense and it is something Ryan has learned from.

Easy Builders muslin carrying bagSo, a week or two ago Ryan and I did a little math to figure out what it really costs for us to produce these sets of blocks. The results were eye opening for both of us. For Ryan it was a big surprise to see how much it really costs to make his product. For me the eye opener was in learning which of the materials represented the greatest expense. It was the paint, followed by the nice muslin bags we are using as packaging.

So now with an accurate picture of what our costs were the discussion moved to what we should really be pricing the Easy Builder building block sets at. Ryan’s initial answer was… the exact cost we had just arrived at. So, Dad continues with the discussion in hopes of a better answer. Ryan’s final decision on the matter left us with less than $.50 “profit” on each set of building blocks sold which is where our pricing currently stands.

Now I worry that should we get a surge of sales (even a small surge would be significant) by virtue of good publicity with the upcoming tv news story broadcast, will we find ourselves spinning our wheels? Without any appreciable profit margin we create no income for Work Builders and we also are not able to support charity as Ryan intends.

Easy Builders building block set - 12 blocks with carrying bagSo the question I would pose to you here is simple. What would you expect to pay for a set of Easy Builder building blocks? Each set contains 12 blocks of varying sizes, they are sanded smooth and painted as you see here. The blocks are sold with a nice muslin carrying bag and there are a number of color choices you can choose from. Please leave your comments right here in this blog post. I appreciate any feedback you might be willing to offer. Keep in mind, Ryan will be giving some of this money to charity. More info on that coming soon!

28Oct

Let’s give money to the needy

Posted by Ryans Dad on 9th October 2009

It seems a daily routine lately that Ryan’s Easy Builders project is a topic of discussion around the house. He’s already got me working on a web page for his project because as he puts it, “Everyone has to know about my blocks and what they can get.” But tonight he came back to a subject he mentioned once or twice earlier in the week, giving to the needy.

It might have been a week or so ago that he mentioned the idea of giving some of the money he makes to the needy. I was pleased to hear him thinking of others in this way, but at the same time I didn’t really pursue the subject much being unsure if it was something he was serious about or just a passing thought. Tonight being possibly the third or fourth time he has brought the idea up, it seemed time to give it more attention.

Tonight’s mention of giving to charity came during the course of Ryan’s dictating to me some things he would like to say on his Web site pages. This time, unlike the earlier mentions, he was more specific on the idea, saying he wants to “split half of the money and put it into a section where we will give it to the needy and the other section we will put in our account.” Pretty clear thinking there I would say.

This was a golden opportunity for us to talk about how you might give to charity. One of his initial thoughts was that he would take his money for the needy to McDonalds and put it into those boxes they have on the counters for helping poor people. We talked about the fact that there are various organizations that help those in need, charitable organizations. Ryan asked questions and we discussed different needs people might have and how supporting these charities in turn helps those people in need.

Ryan hasn’t decided yet on any specific charity to support from his Easy Builder sales (I suppose we have to actually make some paid sales first), but I love that he is even considering it. Both of my boys seem to amaze me in unpredictable ways day after day. This was another of those days.

9Oct