Caleb Wu, 15, has combined two big parts of his life – Lego and a light box - into a hobby that is bringing a constructive pastime to many struggling kids.
The Richmond teen has been going to BC Children’s Hospital three times a week since he was three years old to spend a few minutes at a time in an ultra-violet light box to treat his lymphoma, which manifests on his skin.
As a small boy, the short time he spent in the box felt like “forever.” As he got older, he realized other kids were spending much longer periods of time at the hospital in Vancouver for treatment, and he imagined their frustration and boredom.
“I can’t imagine someone in a bed for six hours doing nothing,” he said.
That’s when he started making small Lego kits for his fellow patients – mini-racers – out of his own Lego that he’d been playing with since he was small.
He made seven kits at first – and they were a huge hit. He next created the Lightbox Raptors kit, which is a fighter jet.
The challenge was to find enough of the same pieces to create several kits of each design.
When he ran out of his own supply, he started buying Lego with the money earned working at Dave’s Fish & Chips in Steveston.
One of his sets went to a 16-year-old with autism who had to stay at BC Children’s for long-term care, during which he was “super anxious and nervous.” He later heard that this set kept him occupied and help him through his stay.
“It was my Lego set and instructions that kept him calm,” Caleb said. When he heard this story, it was “really touching,” he said, and he couldn’t wait to create more Lego kits for other kids.
Caleb has dubbed his initiative “Project Lightbox,” and, this fall, he won $2,500 prize in Coast Capital Savings’ “Power of Youth” contest. He estimates this will keep him supplied for about three years to make up to 500 kits.
Caleb was one of the four winners of the “Power of Youth” contest. Amanda Welschlau with Coast Capital Savings said they were looking for passionate young people who were doing simple acts that could have a large impact. Caleb’s Project Lightbox fit this to a T.
When Caleb’s family was planning a missions trip to a girls’ orphanage India this summer, he decided to create Lego kits to take along to give to the girls living there.
His first idea was to design a Lego snake that several girls could add on to, but that was deemed too frightening and maybe overwhelming in its complexity for kids who hadn’t had any exposure to Lego. His next idea was a fairly simple design called Lightbox Flowerbeds – this was a smash hit and he watched as the older girls at the orphanage in Pune, India, taught the younger girls how to build them.
After his trip to India, he started noticing that there is also poverty around him here in Canada, and he reached out to the YMCA where one in five kids comes from a home in financial need. As a result, he will be making kits for their kids programs as well.
Caleb creates his own designs out of pieces he has, and once he has the prototype, he draws the instructions using Lego Digital Designer, and then he starts searching for and collecting pieces to assemble the kits.
Anyone who wants to donate Lego pieces or Lego gift cards to Project Lightbox can contact Caleb at caleb05W@gmail.com