by Jill Ragar Esfeld
Holy Trinity, Lenexa, parishioner Ceasar Conde never thought a toy would take his kids around the world.
When his two sons started playing with yo-yos more than 20 years ago, he encouraged the activity because it was good, clean fun that got them away from the television.
But before long, they got so good that they started going to local competitions, then national competitions. Eventually, both were winning on a world level.
And the next thing Conde knew, his sons were sponsored by major yo-yo manufacturers and traveling around the world giving demonstrations.
Check out his son, Ben, in Tokyo last year at the World YoYo Contest.
Seeing his sons’ remarkable journey, Conde wished all kids could have the opportunity of discovering themselves through skill toys like the yo-yo.
And so, when he retired three years ago, he poured all of his retirement savings into opening a toy store.
His dream was a store that specialized in skill toys to promote learning, creativity and imagination.
He wanted to have family game nights and free workshops where kids could learn to yo-yo and juggle.
Eventually, he hoped to manage a yo-yo team filled with kids talented enough to perform in the community and compete on a world level like his sons had.
People thought he was crazy.
When Conde opened Go Big Skill Toys Store in Shawnee, Kansas, I wrote an article about his endeavor.
The article, which you can read here, chronicles his life — from growing up in abject poverty in the Philippines, to marrying his true love, to immigrating to the United States.
Most of all, it is a testament to his deep trust in God and devotion to St. Jude.
The article generated a great deal of interest. And since then I have often been asked what became of Conde and his toy store. Was it the success he dreamed of?
To answer that question, I revisited Go Big Skill on its third anniversary.
Cesar’s goal was never financial gain; it was a deep desire to give back to his community.
“I started this store to build a community and to see that community succeed like I saw my kids succeed,” he said. “Children are what this store is all about.”
Succeed he has. Go Big Skill has grown bigger — moving to a larger facility adjacent to the original store.
It’s a fun store to browse. Conde sells a variety of educational toys, games and, of course, yo-yos.
He even has a whole section of bacon-related novelty items
The bigger location allows for more room to play; and that room was needed.
Conde has been very successful hosting free workshops every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Family game nights are packed on the third Friday of each month.
He did form a yo-yo team that he manages with all the fatherly love and discipline he showed his own sons.
Team members participate in yo-yo competitions and perform at all types of events from school assemblies to birthday parties to parades
And they’re often on hand at the store to help anyone wanting to learn.
“Once you discover your talent,” said Conde. “You are not going to keep it to yourself. You share it with others.”
That’s pretty much the motto at Go Big Skill Toys.
Small Business Saturday is November 26. What better time to visit? For more information, check out Go Big Skill Toys.