#WyoStrong: One man's journey from mining coal to building toys

(Cheyenne, Wyo.) - There are times when challenges in life will stretch you thin and really test your perseverance and willingness to overcome. But somehow, we always make it through by focusing on what is truly valued in life, and knowing when to ask for a lending hand from a neighbor, friend, or family member. Cris French was a fourth generation coal miner from Kentucky that had moved west with his family to continue work. He had a great work history, saved money, was treated fairly, but ended up getting diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder, Parsonage Turner Syndrome, that caused severe pain in his shoulders and arms and limited his physical abilities. Around that same time, French had been moved from a salaried position back down to hourly personnel while the industry was experiencing another downturn, until he finally had to bow out of the job altogether due to his physical condition and the downturn. That's when French decided he was going to leave the mining industry all together, "I listened to my kids and started a business after asking myself and my family, 'what am I going to do in life?'" He meshed a lifelong talent with an idea for a business, and now he sells toys of all sorts to kids nationwide, naming the business after his son; Tyler's Toys 4 Kids. ​ "It was 1977, my grandfather came home from the coal mine and the engineers had loaded his truck with some PVC, he drilled a hole in it and gave it to us kids and we played with it for years," French said. "Since then, I always had fun making toys, making something out of nothing." "I had several friends lose their jobs in the industry; my best man at my wedding lost his job. He called me up and asked, 'What do I do?,' and I told him that you need to pay yourself first," French said. "Everybody has a talent, they just don't take the time to know what it is." French said he remembers driving an hour to and from the mine every day, working upwards of 80 hours per week at the mine, rarely seeing his family. But now he gets to spend time with family, participates at his kids' school and within the community, gets to see his wife, and to travel to wonderful places meeting a lot of great people. "The downturn for me was a blessing," he said. "My advice would be to look at what it is you're good at, sometimes the best thing is to have a conversation with your family and forget about punching a time clock and trading hours for dollars." French said he still has respect for the company he once worked for, and even still dons the old jacket. ​ See all of French's crafty work on his Etsy page or by following him on Facebook . #shortgo #news #wyostrong