Chances are high that you’ve heard of the amazing charity, Toys for Tots. Celebrities have endorsed it, professional athletes have rallied behind it and first ladies have championed it. But how much do you really know about this charity?
For instance, did you know Toys for Tots was founded by and continues to be run by U.S. Marines?
In 1947, Major Bill Hendricks, a Marine reserve, founded Toys for Tots in Los Angeles as a way to grant underprivileged children Christmas gifts. The first year the charity collected 5,000 toys, the first of which was a handmade doll. The event was such a success that the U.S. Marine Corps adopted the program and expanded it nationwide starting the next year. Marines in the reserve from around the country began collecting both new and old toys, wrapping the new ones and refurbishing the old ones on their drill weekends in October, November and December.
Though Toys for Tots now accepts only new toys, almost 70 years later it is still run by local Marine Corps Reserve Units. If there is no reserve unit in the community, campaigns can be headed by a specially designated Marine Corps League Detachment, composed of mostly veteran Marines. Many of these conduct fundraisers — like golf tournaments, races, etc. — that garner more interest and financial support for the organization as a whole.
A campaign manager is assigned in the community to organize, plan and carry out the toy drive. Local business owners allow donors to drop off gifts at designated stores. The donations later are sorted and distributed by age and gender. Presents are distributed between mid-December and the end of the month.
Toys for Tots leaders hope to leave a bigger impression on needy children than a mere smile at the sight of a gift, though. The website states the purpose of Toys for Tots is “to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them into becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.”
Through times of recession and surplus, Toys for Tots has continued to fight for children in need. In 2015, Toys for Tots collected a whopping $273 million for underprivileged children in the United States, their second best year on record. The previous year they collected the most in their history — $284 million through direct mail, corporate donations and online donations.
If you would like to contribute to Toys for Tots, there’s still time! Follow this link for details.