Only in Indiana: Toby

Toby Thomassen refurbishes another computer to donate to CASA. (WTHR image by John Whalen)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WTHR) - Summer is generally a time for kids to kick back and wind down after the school year. But in tonight’s Only in Indiana, Kevin Rader and photographer John Whalen found a young man who is really just starting to gear up.

They explain in tonight’s story entitled "Toby."

Toby Thomassen is a typical teenager. When summer hits he has things to do and people to see. Luckily this 13 year old has his mother to help him get there.

"We are wondering if you have any laptops," Toby Thomassen asked? "We do have some laptops," he was told.

He is also lucky that he lives in Bloomington.

"So we got a couple more for you. We gotta box started for you going on here," Todd Reid the manager at IU Surplus told him.

Because the IU Surplus Store serves as his supplier at minimal cost.

"These are both wiped?" Toby asked. "Yes," Reid answered. "Low end, and you are going to make them better," Reid continued. "Yes. Do you have chargers?" Toby responded. "Chargers? we can find a couple of chargers for you. There you go buddy," Reid said, offering chargers. "Thank you," Toby replied.

This all started when Toby was in 6th grade.

"This is another successful pickup," Toby told his mother. "Yep," she answered.

He was required to research a real-world problem. Toby selected e-waste, and the research project quickly became very real.

"It was to have an impact on the world. My impact was to help people in need who need it more than I do," Toby Thomassen, now working on computers in his home, observed.

So the boy who built his own 3-D printer in 4th Grade, built his own computer in 5th grade. "Right now, I am taking out the RAM," he continued.

That's also when he began to realize what he could really accomplish or, more importantly, what he could help others accomplish.

"There is nothing else to take out of here, so this donor is done. So I will just put this back on in case I need to pull anything else out again," he said, his eyes focused on the computer in front of him.

He cleans them, refurbishes them, downloads software so others can use them and then he and his mom who teaches psychology at IU are off once again. To deliver them.

"One of the things I have learned in teaching is there are a lot of people who have a lot of ability and potential, but motivation is a lot of it too, and he is really gifted in having motivation to do those types of things," his mother, Dr. Lisa Thomassen explained about Toby.

"We have this one, and then one we have to order a battery for, then we will have another one," Toby told the receptionist at CASA. "Thank you," she exclaimed.

You see Toby donates every computer he fixes to CASA so foster kids will have the same opportunities he has.

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates - an organization that provides representation in juvenile court for child victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.

"These kids would not have computers to use for school, work and basic teenage stuff without it," Monroe County CASA Executive Director Kristin Bishay clarified.

So after that, the boy who noticed how other kids were falling behind at school because they didn't have a computer, was back at it.

"A computer can help you do a lot of things," Toby says. "You can type essays on it a lot quicker than you can write, and I know we are giving them to people who are going back into the high school system, so that is really impactful and it means a lot. This computer is done by the way," he said as he reached out for another one.

So much to do. So little time.

His mother says Toby will be attending a cyber security camp this summer. He actually is too young to register but the organizers say they know all about him and admitted him anyway.