The Albert Hall echoed with a very familiar sound this week. More than 3.2 tonnes of loose LEGO was swirling around inside plastic tubs as children and (well mostly) adults, rooted through it, hoping to snap up a bargain for a good cause.
The Green Shed’s third Giant Charity LEGO Sale raised about $86,300 for local charity Roundabout Canberra, which rehomes safe and high-quality baby and children’s items to families in need.
It was only open for three hours from 6 pm on Wednesday 30 November, but it was enough to achieve what The Green Shed co-owner Charlie Bigg-Wither described as an “amazing result”.
“If we’d left it open longer, we would have sold more, because I think some were scared off by the queues, which wrapped around the whole of the Albert Hall before we’d even opened,” he said.
About 700 adult fans of LEGO (known as AFOLS), plus children and their parents, turned 3.2 tonnes of loose LEGO, as well as vintage and antique sets, into 1.2 tonnes.
“Everyone was very patient, and it had a really great community feel.”
The first charity LEGO sale was held in 2018, eight years after new owners took over Canberra’s recycling and reuse facility, The Green Shed.
Charlie had been collecting LEGO bricks and sets since 1993, but the hobby exploded when he was able to take home vast amounts of Canberra’s unwanted LEGO. His family’s house in Turner has even become known as ‘The LEGO House’ thanks to the various brick-themed creations dotted around inside and out.
After their daughter spent an extended time in hospital after a serious accident, he and his wife Sandie knew just what to do with the excess. They held a sale in The Green Shed at the Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre with proceeds going to the Canberra Hospital Foundation.
The following year’s Giant Charity LEGO Sale raised money for OzHarvest Canberra, and after a break of three years due to COVID-19 restrictions, Roundabout Canberra was chosen for 2022.
Based on Wednesday’s success, they’ve been selected as the sale’s charity partner going forward.
Charlie says he and Sandie Parkes just had to bring the LEGO to and from the sale while about 20 volunteers from Roundabout Canberra took care of everything else. And that’s not counting all the behind-the-scenes sorting work.
“All of it was 100 per cent sorted, so there were no bits of rubbish, fake LEGO, or Nerf bullets,” he says.
“They were all extremely dedicated.”
Roundabout Canberra CEO Hannah Andrevski said she and the volunteers were a bit overwhelmed by the scale of the project at first, but quickly settled into “having a great time”.
“We spent about two-and-a-half weeks before the sale sorting and preparing the LEGO for the sale, which was a lot of fun really.”
Buyers came for different reasons, but the volunteers got to hear all their stories, some of which brought tears to their eyes.
“There was someone who had been looking for a particular set for 20 years and managed to get hold of it,” Hannah said.
“And then there was a little boy who was desperate for the Kwik-E Mart set from The Simpsons. His sister has been going through chemotherapy for the past 18 months and he really wanted to buy this for her.”
Hannah said Roundabout Canberra was thrilled to work with The Green Shed on future sales, with the funds to go towards helping thousands of local families and children in need.
“We’ve really seen an increase over the past couple of years in the impact of cost-of-living pressures and people struggling to pay for the basic essentials like food, rent and fuel. If we are able to help them access essential goods for their children, it frees up money and mental load for these other important things.”
The leftover LEGO was also gifted to Roundabout Canberra. Some of it will be used in their toy packs while the rest will be saved for next year’s even bigger Giant Charity LEGO Sale.