VIDEO: Santa’s hackers bring joy to special needs kids

(KRON/CNN)—-The living room of a Colorado home probably isn’t where you would start searching for a toy factory.

But for families of kids with special needs that may be the best place to look.

From our partners at CNN, Shannon Ogden has the story.

Max Watson has a very important job.

He is the official toy tester for “Santa’s Little Hackers.”

The non-profit his parents Deana and Steve created as a way to provide adaptable toys to kids with special needs around the world.

“This is one of the more complex adaptations because we’ve take the electronics out of the toys,” said Steve Watson.

Many of them adapted right here in their Westminster living room where they keep the drill press and soldering iron.

“We’re just intersecting the existing circuit so that we can allow a switch to be plugged into this port,” Steve Watson said.

Just part of the process of turning off-the shelf toys into toys that can be triggered by buttons and switches used by kids with special needs.

The toys are all donated by people responding to wish lists on the “Santa’s Little Hackers” web site.

Hanna helped sort a recent toy shipment and asked about the inspiration behind “Santa’s little hackers.”

“So we were walking through a target and saw the same toy that we had seen online and I asked my husband if he could adapt that toy for Max and he said I don’t see why not,” Deana Watson said.

Answering the challenge saved the Watson’s half the cost of an already adapted toy.

“You buy a toy for $80, you don’t know if it’s going to work for them,” Steve Watson said. “On previous Christmases the child would open the toy and it’s not a toy they could play with. They couldn’t squeeze the button that’s on the hand or on the toy. By making this adaptation they can push the button and watch it sing, watch the lights come on.”

But these are more than just toys when they’re adapted.

They’re learning devices.

“These are used as a tool to teach,” Deana Watson said. “If I press this same button it will activate my communication device just the same way it activates my toy.”

Last year “Santa’s Little Hackers” modified and shipped 500 toys to 45 states and 8 countries.

This year, their goal is higher, but maybe not as high as their request list.

“Right now where we are sitting we can purchase and ship about 600 toys,” Steve Watson said. “We have 2,000 requests.”

The Watson’s expect to spend some long hours adapting as many toys as they can.

“Once he goes to bed, yes, we sit down and start adapting toys and go until we’re too tired,” Deana Watson said.

Toys Max will then put to his quality test.

All those toys the Watson’s adapt, they give away for free. If you’d like to donate a toy for special needs children, go to

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