It’s been an unbelievable few days for Joe Trupia and his small, suburban-Chicago toy company.
The owner of Naperville-based Citizen Brick says what started out as a simple fundraising idea quickly ballooned into something much bigger.
“We thought it would be a good idea in light of the recent news in Ukraine to try and make something that we could solicit donations and send them to help people,” said Trupia. “So we made a President Vladimir Zelenskiy action figure.”
The unofficial ‘Lego’ figurines went on sale with a price tag of $100 along with a Ukrainian flag molotov cocktail ‘Lego’ figurine listed for $20.
Both items sold out within hours.
“(We) sold out of the first batch of them immediately, but to people we knew, our regular customers, so we kind of thought we were done with it,” said Trupia. “Then, we started getting pings on the phone and we saw it was getting reposted on the Ukrainian Instagram page, which was kind of a shock. Suddenly, we were getting a lot of followers from Ukraine, people messaging us, it was kind of overwhelming.”
Before they knew it, Trupia and his employees were scouring their shop to find parts to, to meet the online demand for their Zelenskiy and Ukrainian flag molotov cocktail ‘Lego’ figurines.
“We didn’t want to miss this window where people are willing to donate to a cause that we are interested in supporting,” said Trupia.
The owner of the 12-year-old toy company was hesitant to say exactly how many figurines they’ve sold, but confirm they raised over $145,000 for war-torn Ukraine before quickly selling out again.
“We made every one we could,” said Trupia. “We understand that there’s more interest than supply. We hope that people will take that goodwill and turn it into direct donations for charities or some other organization that can help Ukraine.”
The funds from Citizen Brick’s sales will go to Direct Relief, a charity that claims to have deployed over 30 tons of medical aid to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began.
“We’ve had a lot of contact from people in Ukraine, which is surprising that they’ve had the time and mind to contact us and say thanks,” said Trupia. “It’s very humbling, we keep that in the front of our minds when we’re trying to do something like this.”
As Citizen Brick works to fulfill all of the orders for the sold-out Zelenskiy and Ukrainian flag Molotov cocktail ‘Lego’ figurines, Trupia admits he’s storing a few of each item for some special fans of his company’s work.
“There’s a couple of (Ukrainian) kids who contacted me and said, ‘We’re big Lego fans. We’ve had to scramble and seek shelter and leave everything behind. When we win this war and everything settles down and goes back to normal, can you send us some?’ said Trupia “I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll keep them for you.’”
(Production: Eric Cox)