Elderly Man Makes Thousands Of Pocket-Sized Hearts To Give Away

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Even though Lanny Burrill retired decades ago, you’ll find him putting in a full day’s work inside the woodshop at Riverview Retirement Community.

elderly mad who makes his wood hearts
Courtesy of Avista Utilities

In here, this 82-year-old grandpa takes pieces of scrap wood and turns them into pocket-sized hearts and heartfelt moments for anyone he meets.

“I hope people feel that they are special and that they are loved,” said Lanny Burrill.

Over the past two decades, Lanny has handmade thousands of tiny hearts.

But, as he’ll tell you, it’s a passion that started by accident.

“I was in my basement and came across a pretty piece of wood, so I made a heart for my wife. She loved it, and so I made more,” said Lanny.

elderly man with his bowl of hearts that he made himself
Courtesy of Avista Utilities

This year alone, he’s created about 1,500 hearts.

Lanny draws each heart, cuts it out, and sands it using three different grits of sandpaper, so it’s silky smooth.

It takes about 20 minutes to make just one heart.

Lanny has always loved woodworking.

As a kid growing up on a farm in Oregon, he’d make popcorn bowls and truck racks to take their livestock to the fair.

Now, he’s using his talents to make a difference in the lives of strangers.

“I work hard to make sure everyone has a heart. Anyone, I come into contact with, a waitress, a store clerk, and little kids. I make sure their mom is okay with it, and I ask if they want a little heart,” said Lanny.

Lanny doesn’t leave the house without a pocket full of hearts.

man holding his wood heart to show how it looks after
Courtesy of Avista Utilities

Recently, he handed a woman in line at Costco a special heart marked with a knot.

“I gave it to her, and she had tears in her eyes. She told me, ‘There’s a hole in my heart from when my son died last year,'” said Lanny.

About a decade ago, Lanny started donating his wood hearts to several local schools.

When a student has a tough time, counselors will break out the heart collection and ask them to choose one to keep.

wood hearts that are made from all different types of wood
Courtesy of Avista Utilities

“Each counselor at the schools has stories to tell. One time a little boy came into a school counselor’s office, unhappy, and they let him pick a heart. The grain of the wood looked like a man with arms stretched out, and the boy said, ‘It’s got my angel on it,'” said Lanny.

It’s moments like this that keep Lanny in the woodshop, sanding, cutting, and sanding a little more so each heart is just right.

So everyone has a pocket-sized reminder of how much they are loved.

“It’s worth doing. It makes me feel like I need to keep going. There’s an awful lot of people with broken hearts. It’s not about me; it’s all about the heart,” said Lanny.

the process of making a wood heart by carving it out
Courtesy of Avista Utilities

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