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Make a child’s season special with Toys for Tots

No matter where you are celebrating, there is something about Christmas that brings a magic unparalleled at any other time of the year. Lights and decorations are everywhere, Christmas carols fill the air and people travel great distances to come together with their families to sit around the Christmas tree to talk, drink hot cocoa and open presents.

Unfortunately, many children across the country don’t have the joy of presents under a tree.

Every year, there are children who are not fortunate enough to enjoy a beautiful Christmas. However, for 71 years, Toys for Tots has made it their mission to make a difference in these children’s lives. The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program collects new, unwrapped toys during the months of October, November and December and distributes them to less fortunate children in the community. When Santa needs holiday logistics support, he is absolutely going to call in the Marines.

Reservist Major Bill Hendricks founded Toys for Tots in Los Angeles in 1947. His wife, Diane, who in attempt to donate a homemade Raggedy Ann doll to a child in need but was unsuccessful in finding a charity to help, inspired Hendricks to form a group of local Marine reservists to provide a solution. One notable Marine from this group was Lieutenant Colonel John Hampton; he singlehandedly coordinated the collection of thousands of toys from bins placed outside Warner Bros. movie theaters that year. Hendricks and the rest of his group were so successful that in 1948 Toys for Tots was launched as a national campaign and it has been helping needy children around the country ever since.

Staff Sergeant Robert (R.C.) Swift III administers Charleston’s program, which has a history of receiving tremendous community support, collecting and distributing around 70,000 toys to children in need each year. Registration for the event extends until November 30 and applications are to be submitted in person at the storefront location in side Citadel Mall, suite 716.

More information application can be found on their website, www.charleston-sc.toysfortots.org. All toys from these drives are to be turned in by December 10 and Toys for Tots is happy to support any business or organization that would like to host a collection event or fundraiser until December 17. Marines from that area will even show up dressed in their Dress Blues to show support.

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve encourages support from the public to volunteer and help the effort to be as successful as possible. Michael Zemke, though not a Marine, developed a passion for the program. Located in Horry County, the closest drive to him was in Charleston, but Zemke saw an opportunity to expand. He was able to work with the Toys for Tots Foundation to establish a collection and distribution drive in Horry County and was the coordinator for 10 years.

Zemke had nothing but high praise when speaking on his experience with working with Toys for Tots and the Marines involved in the program. “The success of the program is due to the hard work of Marines and volunteers and the incredible generosity form the American public.”

Their mission, to “deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens” is achieved every year, thanks to the at-present nearly 40,000 Marines, Marine Corps League members, veteran Marines and volunteers involved in annual campaigns. Since its conception, they have collected and distributed more than 548 million toys to better than 251 million children.

The Toys for Tots Campaign also raises awareness and shows support through a variety of other fundraising events. Outside of the gift collection and distribution campaign, local Toys for Tots Campaign Coordinators organize and hold a number of activities during the year, including golf tournaments, foot races, bicycle races and other voluntary events to raise awareness and promote interest and support for Toys for Tots.

As Colonel Ted Silvester, vice president of marketing and development of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, noted, “Toys for Tots makes good use of donations and is proud to report a 97:3 program-to-support ratio. That means 97 percent of every dollar donated — that’s 97 cents of every dollar — went to our mission of providing gifts to less fortunate children and only three cents to fundraising and overhead costs.”

There are presently nearly 40,000 Marines, Marine Corps League members, veteran Marines and volunteers involved in annual campaigns. Toys for Tots has been a prominent charity ever since its conception, having collected and distributed more than 548 million toys to over 251 million less fortunate children.

Christmas to many is known as the season of giving and often inspires individuals to think of others. It may not be a lot, but for these children receiving just one present for Christmas makes all the difference in the world. Information for anyone who wants to volunteer is available on their website at: www.toysfortots.org. Please consider dropping a new toy in one of the many collection bins throughout the area or make an online donation, helping make Christmas magical for an underprivileged child in our community.

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