The images coming out of Ukraine were a call to action for Joe Trupia, an Illinois toymaker who used his craft to help the war-torn nation.
“I think like everyone else, we were shocked to see tanks rolling through European cities and people running and hiding in subway tunnels,” he said.
Trupia is a custom toymaker in Naperville, where he owns and operates Citizen Brick, a company that's been in business for 12 years.
Looking for a way to help with relief efforts, he decided to create a Lego-inspired version of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, green shirt and all. The toy can hold a tiny Molotov cocktail.
His original plan was to hold a one-day sale, but the toys sold out in minutes — so they decided to make even more.
“I was surprised by how many people across the world were interested,” he said.
Within two days they were gone, and Trupia had raised almost $150,000. He donated every penny to DirectRelief, a non-profit providing medical aid to Ukraine.
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“It costs money and we would not be able to do without Citizen Brick and others who have stepped up,” said Tony Morain with DirectRelief. "We don't get government funding. It is all private citizens and businesses. So this means a lot."
Trupia says he has no plans on selling another batch of the Zelenskyy toys but is considering other fundraising efforts for his company.
“It was a big effort to pull together,” Trupia said. “It felt like a small drop. I wish we could have done more.”
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