UPDATE: Adham has been accused of fraud by Finnish paper Helsingin Sanomat. There are also allegations that he may have ties to extremist groups operating in Syria. We will update this story further as more information becomes available.
American presidential candidate Gary Johnson may not know where or what Aleppo is, but this dad certainly does.
Rami Adham is a 44-year-old Finnish-Syrian father. He has two children: his daughter Jasmin and son Nidal. But to hundreds of other children, he's a mythic figure, the stuff of legends — "The Toy Smuggler of Aleppo."
Five years ago, Adham first embarked on an international mission to bring food, medicine, and water to families affected by the Syrian Civil War in Aleppo, a city near the Syrian-Turkish border. He only planned on transporting essential items until Jasmin insisted on donating her toys to the children in need. Her only condition: a new Barbie upon Adham's safe return.
According to The Telegraph, Adham carried 25 teddy bears and 36 Barbie dolls on that first trip. "We'd brought food, but when we started giving away the toys, it created a huge fuss," he told the publication. "Kids were coming from all over. I realized they weren't thinking about food — they just wanted a toy."
Since then, Adham has traveled to Aleppo once every two months, bringing dozens of toys — and immeasurable amounts of joy — with him.
Each time, he carries about 175 pounds of donated toys across the Syrian-Turkish border, making "superhero" a more apt descriptor than "smuggler."
Adham has earned both titles, but only became internationally known by the latter after Turkey closed its borders to Syria in March 2015.
Going through "unofficial ways," he's nonetheless continued to deliver toys to Syrian children and transport money used to buy food, medicine, and other essentials once inside Syria.
During this year's month of Ramadan, he gave 700 toys to children living in a refugee camp near the northern town of Atmeh.
Now, Adham's work isn't all fun and games. His next goal is to provide new educational opportunities to Syrian children.
On August 23, he created a GoFundMe page to raise money to build Syrian schools close to the Turkish borders, where he wrote they will be safe from constant bombing. So far, he's raised about 770 Euros (about $850) of his 5,000 Euro ($5571) goal.
According to the GoFundMe page, Adham just left on his most recent trip to Syria. It may also be his most important. He plans to attend "the final steps of [the] school building process" and deliver "aid to the city of Aleppo." Of course, no trip would be complete without a toy... or 600.
That's how many he plans to bring with him — and how many smiles he'll get in return.