Marine Vows Mission Success for Toys for Tots, Despite Economic Woes
(December 21, 2008)
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Charles Reynolds, an assistant
with the Marine Forces Reserve Toys for Tots program,
speaks to Cub Scouts in Mandeville, La., about the
program as well as the benefits of staying in school,
staying fit and volunteering during a Dec. 7, 2008,
visit. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Capt. Erin Wiener
Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Azemar
King saw how the nation swept in to help him and
his fellow New Orleanians when Hurricane Katrina
devastated their city in 2005. So this year,
he's convinced the American public will step in
during the last few days before Christmas to
ensure the Marine Corps Reserve's annual Toys
for Tots drive doesn't leave a single needy
King, national coordinator
for the program at Marine Forces Reserve headquarters in New
Orleans, concedes that a dire economy has caused
donations to drop, even as need increases.
“Everybody is hurting this year, but they
are still generous and doing what they can across the
board,” he said. “But there's a big gap there to fill.” |
Retired Marine Corps Maj. Bill Grein, vice president for the
Marine Toys for Tots Foundation that manages the program's
fund- and toy-raising activities and supplements local
collection efforts, said this year is tougher than most.
Fewer toys are being dropped off at most of the 600-plus
collection sites around the country. Private cash donations
have decreased locally as well, and corporate cash donations
to the Toys for Tots Foundation are down 12 to 15 percent
from last year, Grein said.
The good news, he said, is that corporate toy donations are
keeping pace with last year's levels, and several
corporations have made “great donations” to help fill the
shortfall. Hasbro Inc., JAKKS Pacific Inc., Toys“R”Us Inc.,
Best Buy, The UPS Store and Build-a-Bear Workshop Inc. all
made big toy donations, he said.
With less than a week to Christmas, and as more people turn
to the Toys for Tots drive this year for help, Grein
expressed hope that the program can keep pace with demand.
Last year, Toys for Tots distributed 16.7 million toys to
7.5 million children. But with 13 million U.S. children at
or below the poverty level, Grein said that “leaves a lot
still to be reached.”
At the Marine Corps Reserve headquarters, King refuses to
believe this year's campaign will fall short.
“We're very confident that we are going to have mission
accomplishment. That's always first for the Marine Corps,”
he said. “In my heart of hearts, I hope and I believe that
this week, some angel is going to call the foundation” and
make a big donation.
Meanwhile, King is convinced that as toy shortages get more
publicity, “people are going to step up” and dig a little
deeper into their pockets to help.
King experienced that kind of generosity firsthand when he
and his fellow New Orleans residents were displaced
following Hurricane Katrina.
“I've seen what people will do when they see a need,” he
said. “And I think the American public is going to rally and
do their part between now and Christmas and get us the toys
or the money so we can change that into a toy and make sure
that every child gets a toy for Christmas.”
Marine Corps Reserve volunteers are busy working toward that
goal as they get donated toys to charitable groups across
the country. With some of the regular reserve volunteers
serving combat deployments, active-duty Marines have
volunteered to serve as reinforcements, King said.
In addition, veteran Marines and other community members are
serving as Santa's helpers, collecting and distributing toys
on behalf of the program.
This year marks the 60 anniversary of the nationwide Toys
for Tots program. The program got its start in 1947 as a
much smaller effort when Marine Corps Maj. Bill Hendricks
and a group of fellow Marine Corps reservists in Los Angeles
collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children.
The pilot project proved so successful that the Marine Corps
adopted the program in 1948, expanding it into a nationwide
campaign. Since then, Marines have distributed more than 370
million toys to more than 173 needy children through Toys
King called Toys for Tots a great outreach effort that
connects the Marine Corps with communities across the
country. “This is that personal touch that the Marine Corps
gives back to the community that has allowed us to build
such a great repertoire and reputation with the American
people,” he said.
“They love the Marine Corps,” he continued. “We win wars and
we have this great program that touches the lives of
But King said he and his fellow Marines are touched
personally by the program as well.
“Volunteers come in and they give and they give and they
give. And it is a thankless job until you see that child
receive that toy, and then it all makes sense,” he said.
“Seeing the eyes and the reaction of those kids -- you just
can't put a price tag on it.
“And that's why you come back year after year to give this
program 110 percent, and why Toys for Tots has become as
successful as it is,” King said. “It is the purest form of
Information about where to request or drop off toys and how
to make an online donation is available on the
Toys for Tots Foundation Web site.
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Comment on this article