Brick by Brick
LEGO bricks have been a staple in any family’s house since their invention, providing tools for a child’s imagination to run wild and build whatever is desired. For those like Blake Ready, however, these toys are not only a staple of imagination, but expression as well. Blake has autism, so he faces challenges with social skills and is developmentally a few years behind his peers. There is one thing he will do, though: build with LEGO bricks. He designs his own creations and can turn any image into an almost identical LEGO replica.
Once a month, Blake and his mother, Kelly Hrdlicka, go to a local nursing home with tubs of LEGO bricks in tow and build with the residents. It’s a time they all enjoy! Because the smaller pieces may be harder for the older generation to handle, Kelly needed the extra-large Duplo LEGO bricks for these outings. Faith Ryan, St. Ann 645, Janesville, Minn., and her local court came in to help. As a fellow parishioner to Kelly and Blake, she knew them well. “When our court found out what they were doing and in need of, we thought this would be a good thing to make a Feeding God’s Children event around, because it’s feeding the young and the old,” Faith said. “We had the funds, so we thought, let’s support this!” They sent Faith on an errand to buy Duplo LEGO bricks and give them to Kelly; she included a Feeding God’s Children shirt with the donation as well.
This would be the first of many donations Kelly and Blake would require to make their ambitions become a reality. When Kelly grew tired of hearing Blake’s teachers say he didn’t have friends in class or wasn’t interacting with the other students, she decided to get him out of his comfort zone and out of his Lego-adorned bedroom to meet other people his age. She knew there had to be others like Blake who loved to play with LEGO bricks and weren’t involved with sports or other extra-curriculars.
After some unsuccessful attempts to draw a crowd, she held a free community event for kids to come and build the Janesville grain silos – an iconic landmark of the town that had come down in a storm – out of LEGO bricks. Volunteers appeared, amassing to about 14 kids in total—one of whom was Faith’s nephew—to help build the silos outside city hall, and donations flooded in. Though she ended up having to throw many of the donated LEGO bricks away due to wear and tear, they had plenty for the project.
Running out of space to store all the LEGO bricks they were beginning to collect, Kelly elected to rent a storefront uptown and open a business called Ready, Set, Build. The business provides a space for kids of all ages to come and build whatever custom creations they want and even display them in the space for the day if they wish, as substitution for not being able to take them home. “He’s the boss,” Kelly said of Blake. “The plan is for this to become his business. He will be working there, cleaning, socializing, forced to talk to people and take money, then give money back.”
Though he prefers to be doing the building himself, both Faith and Kelly attested to how well he works with younger builders. Faith added how she sees that same care and attention from Blake for his siblings at Mass. His notable work ethic, kindness and talent, with Kelly’s business ideas, have made him and the business of local fame, Faith commented. The Mankato newspaper picked up the story, and in the blink of an eye they were receiving an email from the paper’s editor explaining that Legoland Florida Resort wanted to make their upcoming trip even more special. Kelly said, “We have full VIP treatment, so we’ll have a tour guide for the whole day, get to be at the front of the lines, have lunch with the mini-figures, he’ll get a one-on-one session with a builder, and whatever they build he gets to take home.” Kelly described. This will be Blake’s first vacation and his first time on an airplane, and he admitted he was excited at the prospect. Faith exclaimed, “All from an article in the paper!”
Kelly, Blake and Faith all look forward to seeing what future endeavors the business will take on and how it will grow. “Our court likes to help out with other projects that come up in the parish, and to help with whatever parishioners need,” Faith said. It’s thanks to their donation, Kelly’s entrepreneurial spirit, and Blake’s passion for LEGO bricks that they’ve set this business off and running to build more than just LEGO brick structures; they’re building community.
Check out the Facebook page for Ready, Set, Build.
Article by Alison Mink and Kaitlynrose Bicek.