Watch CBS News

Meet California's "Toy Man," a humble humanitarian who's brought joy to thousands of kids

"Toy Man" continues legacy of giving
"Toy Man" continues legacy of giving 06:43

Jeffrey Olsen, affectionately known as the "Toy Man" in Vista, California, has spent over three decades enriching the lives of those less fortunate by donating toys, food, and clothes.

"I just do it because it feels right," Olsen said as he shared, pictures of children, many of whom he has only briefly met.

In total, Olsen has helped 59,960 children with new toys. Among them was Mathew Garcia, a child he met in a hospital suffering from severe muscular dystrophy.

"He was wishing for a Tickle Me Elmo," Olsen said.

Olsen's efforts have made him a beloved figure in San Diego County, earning him celebrity status and a special nickname. "They know me by my nickname, the 'Toy Man,'" he said. 

His donations over the years have been funded entirely by his personal savings, including money he invested from his earnings in the stock market. He estimates the amount of money is in thousands. 

Olson was a salesman in the suit department at the local J.C. Penney. His dedication stems from a deep-rooted family tradition of giving.

"My grandma when it was a great depression, she used to feed hundreds of people when they were kicked out of the apartments," he recalled. "And then my father, he helped out a lot of people too."

His father was a decorated Korean War veteran honored again this month—a man who lost his leg in the Korean War and someone Olsen cared for until his death. 

Olsen's humanitarian journey has also been shaped by his own challenges. Misdiagnosed with epilepsy as a child and given incorrect medication, he faced developmental delays. A local newspaper investigated and in 1998 reported what happened to Olsen might have happened to other children at a military hospital and they too have to live with impairments.

"That's also what makes me want to help the people. Because of having to go through that in life," said Olsen. "It makes me feel good when I do this for the people."

The "Toy Man" is also caring for his 92-year-old mother, showing the same devotion at home as he does in his community. Despite never marrying or having children of his own, Olsen says his life's work is shown through his charitable work.

"When I do this work, I think I have the spirits of those kids with me…when I go, Because I have this feeling it's pushed me to want to do it," he said. 

If you have a story you want "CBS Mornings" lead national correspondent David Begnaud to consider, please send it to

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.