Stuart Marsh (top left) and James Kitia (top right) stand with Kitia’s sons, Aza (left) and Benny (right) with an early prototype of the truck, as well as a new version and a soccer ball, also made by Kitia for his sons to play with.
On Thursday, the pair launched an Indiegogo campaign to help fund some of the base costs in order to support initial production.
Those funds will be raised through The Puzzle Truck— a toy Kitia secretly designed for his car-loving 10-year-old son, Benny, after promising to improve on an earlier, more flimsy model he’d made using household items. Kitia said he wanted his son to play outside, but without using non-physical toys like remote-control cars.
Using cardboard and plastic bottle caps, Kitia fashioned together a toy truck and added a string for his son to pull.
Aza said he loved the truck, but it was too weak and would easily tip over with a breeze.
Kitia said he “promised” to make a better one.
Over the next few weeks, after he would drop his sons off at Swift Elementary School, he walked over to Edgewater Workbench, where he planned to use the shop’s wood laser-cutter to create a stronger version of his earlier prototype.
He said Marsh told him his toy truck idea had the potential to be “big” — together they could create and sell lots of trucks that many kids could use and that could benefit a larger cause.
That’s when Kitia’s soccer team in Tanzania came to mind.
“If I have the opportunity to help them, that’s what I want to do,” he said.
James Kitia is a soccer professional who both teaches and plays, and will use some of the funds from the puzzle trucks to build resources for his soccer camp in his hometown in Tanzania.
So the two got to work putting together plans, spending 2-5 hours a day coming up with the Puzzle Truck toy.
Using lightweight wood panels that slide and clip together, the toy encourages family participation, creativity and physical activity, the duo said.
The truck comes in a kit to partially be assembled with parents and partially left to the child’s imagination.
Portions of the proceeds from each of the trucks will go toward building a soccer stadium for more than 40 soccer clubs in Tanzania, each of which has about 30 players.
Kitia started a soccer camp there in 2008, which now holds regular tournaments that draw upward of 10,000 spectators who must sit in dusty fields or trees in order to watch the games.
The local government there has already agreed to donate 30 acres to the camp for free in order to build the stadium, Kitia said.
A completed puzzle truck.
Having lived in the U.S. for the past 13 years, Kitia said he appreciates and understands now more than ever how much soccer means in his homeland, and wants players to feel rewarded.
“Being here, I see my country different now, I see how much people love soccer,” Kitia said. “I want to show the kids we value your talents.”
Kitia’s sons, Benny and Aza, 12, said they’re inspired by their dad and what he and Marsh have come up with, prompting Benny to add he might someday want to open a manufacturing plant of his own.
Most of all, the boys said, it taught them that one idea can have big effects.
“It’s pretty cool to watch my dad going from making one truck for me and my friends to this giant project,” Benny said.
Aza agreed. ….”I think it’s pretty amazing to go from … a father-and-son thing to something that can help people across the world,” Aza said. “This could be just one way to do something extraordinary in the world.
“I think it’s cool something so simple can turn into something else that can help improve peoples’ lives in another country.”