MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The presence of a winter breeze and the approach of holiday gatherings is when many children begin the countdown to Christmas morning. Parents sometimes grant impatient youngsters a chance to open a gift on Christmas Eve to get an early glimpse of the smiles to come. But there are still children on Santa's good list who wake to see nothing under the trees.
Luckily, Santa has Marines to help collect and deliver gifts to children across the nation. The Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program announced the start of toy collections at the Marine Corps Exchange aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Nov. 4.
"Christmas is a special time for the children, and gift giving is a part of Christmas," said Col. Daniel Lecce, commanding officer of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. "But, some people just don't have the means in this economy. If we can provide a toy for families in need, it's a nice thing because it (can make) a life-changing difference for the child."
Toys for Tots began in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, a retired Marine reservist, collected 5,000 toys to give to less fortunate children. He believed that his efforts could influence and impact children in a positive way. His wife, Diane, developed the idea after finding out that there were no programs or agencies collecting gifts for under-privileged children. In 1948, Marine Corps reserve units across the country conducted Toys for Tots campaigns in their local communities.
"The importance is the community because the community is what makes the program," said Staff Sgt. Timothy Carulli, the Toys for Tots coordinator with 4th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company. "If people in the community didn't volunteer, (Toys for Tots) wouldn't be able to exist."
Toys for Tots has received support from many people to include celebrities such as Bob Hope and the late president Ronald Reagan. Walt Disney also supported and contributed to the organization. In 1948, Disney designed the Toys for Tots logo, which is still used today, and made the first promotional poster for the organization.
The heart of the nation's patrons, led by the devotion of Marines, has kept the program successful over the years. Toys for Tots has been active for more than 63 years and they have distributed more than 400 million toys to more than 188 million children.
A philosopher once wrote, "In charity there is no excess," and that is what Bill and Diane Hendricks believed as well.
"It makes the long hours and hard work worth it to see the smile on children's faces," said Carulli.
The Christmas Cheer organization in Jacksonville, N.C. will help with the distribution of the toys. The locations of donation boxes can be found on Toysfortots.org. Collections started Nov. 4 and will end Dec. 15.