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Nick Hardman: Founder of 3D Toy Shop

The 3D Toy Shop creates custom stuffed animals for kids experiencing health issues so that they can have a toy that resembles them. The toys help recipients feel more comfortable and can be used as a conversation starter to explain their health issues to other kids. Nick uses 3D printers to create the custom attachments, whether it’s an insulin pump, a shunt, a prosthetic limb, hearing aids, a dialysis machine, or anything in between. The toys are free for anyone in the UK, and are $40 internationally. Learn more here!

How did you get the idea to start this?

I had been interested in 3D printing and got good at it during the pandemic, when I made items like face shields and pieces for ventilators to send to hospitals. Once those supplies were no longer needed, I switched to making toys that weren’t being made in other places. My first request was for a kid with Hydrocephalus who wanted a teddy with a shunt. I’m a single dad of two and it broke my heart, so I decided to make it. When I posted the teddy on Facebook, 68K people came to my page and I got requests for 100 more teddies for different health issues. I started making teddies with a tracheostomy, pacemakers, anything you can imagine. I’ve designed 100 different parts so far and have shipped over 3,000 items. I have five 3D printing machines in my house that run 24/7, and I have about 500 kids on the waitlist right now.

What has the feedback been from your teddy recipients?

I’ve heard so many incredible stories from parents, like how one child was afraid of getting heart surgery, but once they got a teddy that had a chest scar, they couldn’t wait to get the surgery so they could look like their teddy. It gives kids a friend who looks like them and gives them a talking point to explain what’s happening to them with their friends. I recently made one for a 1-year-old boy who has cancer and had to get an arm removed, so his teddy has an arm removed and has a port attached for chemo. I’ve heard about a young girl who didn’t want to wear her hearing aids, but was excited to wear them once she got a teddy to match her. These little kids don’t let go of their teddies– they sleep with them, bring them to school, play with them. Seeing the videos of parents giving the toy to their child is amazing.

How do kids request toys from you?

Most people find out about us from social media. I had a TikTok that got 1.6 million views and changed everything, it brought so many people to our page. We have a crowdfunder campaign to fund the teddies that I send out for free. There’s a form on our website that captures all the information we need. If you are in the UK, then we send you the teddy, and if you are international we send you an Etsy link to purchase it. I want to keep it affordable because my goal is to reach as many kids as possible– having a teddy that looks like them removes a lot of their fear and encourages them to be brave. I’ve sent bulk orders as well, like a pacemaker company who purchased 500 penguin pacemaker teddies to distribute to kids in hospitals all over the EU.

What has been the best part of starting the 3D Toy Shop?

The best part is knowing how much of a difference the teddies make in these kids’ lives. As of now I make no money from this, I do it because it makes me happy. I work part-time to support my kids and work on 3D Toy Shop two days a week. I used to cry every time I sent an order out at the post office because the stories really got to me, but now I just cry when I see the bill. We’ve gone through phases of struggling financially, and TikTok has helped us reach crowdfunding goals. Right now, all of this is being run from my house, it’s totally insane. We’re always looking for help with donations, and with volunteers who can help me in the toy shop with assembling the teddies. My goal is to quit work to do this full-time. It's changed my life and warms my heart everytime I make a teddy.


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