This holiday season, the Marine Corps Reserve is marking the 75th anniversary of its renowned Toys for Tots program.
The national initiative, which began in 1947, collects and distributes toys for children whose families may not have the means to buy them gifts for Christmas.
“The impact that Toys for Tots has on families is that they’re facing many economic issues right now, they have to choose between putting food on the table, paying their bills or getting a gift for their children,” Sgt. Robert Bacchus recently said in a Marine Forces Reserve video.
“We have the opportunity to take some of that burden off of their shoulder[s].”
Marine Corps reservist Maj. Bill Hendricks and his wife Diane collected around 5,000 toys when the couple started the campaign over seven decades ago, according to the initiative’s website. But from its humble origins of gifting handcrafted dolls made by Diane, the program has grown exponentially to support more than 281 million children in need.
Last year, Toys for Tots handed out roughly 19 million toys across every state and U.S. territory, according to Marine Forces Reserve spokesman Lt. Col. Craig Thomas, and this season, they’re on track to reach upwards of 20 million gifts.
Of these contributions, some will go to the children of Afghan refugees who have been granted asylum in the U.S. following the chaotic evacuation from their homeland.
Among many anniversary events scheduled this season, a parachute jump (Nov. 10), a Christmas parade (Nov. 27) and an event with the first lady are all in the works.
For more information on donating or requesting a toy, visit the Toys for Tots website at toysfortots.org.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media