Monday, December 22, 2008

Help the Marines Provide Toys for Tots

I’m pleased to announce that Andrew Lubin is now a weekly contributor to this blog, and we’re aiming for Tuesday as his regular slot.

As I noted for his two previous guest posts, Andrew is the author of the award-winning book “Charlie Battery; A Marine Artillery Unit in Iraq”, and as an embedded journalist has spent 12 of the last 30 months in Iraq, Afghanistan, GTMO, and Beirut writing on our Marines and soldiers. You can learn more about him from his website.

2003 -- Reader’s Digest names Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation America's "Best Children’s Charity"

There are few charities that have accomplished as much as Toys for Tots, and it all started with a Raggedy Ann doll in 1947 Los Angeles.

Diane Hendricks handcrafted the doll and asked her husband Bill to give it to an organization delivering Christmas toys to needy children. To Diane and Bill’s surprise, there was no such group. So after Diane informed Bill that he needed to start one … Major Bill Hendricks, US Marine Corps Reserves, enlisted his fellow reservists. They collected and distributed 5,000 toys that year.

The program was so successful that the Marine Corps promptly adopted Toys for Tots and in 1948 made it a national program. The reservists ran their early campaigns in every city or town in America that had a Marine Reserve Center with the announced goal to “bring the joy of Christmas to America's needy children.”

While Major Hendricks was a Marine reservist on weekends, his day job was that of director of public relations for Warner Brothers Studio, and he used his Warner Brother connections to advance the Toys for Tots program.

In 1948 Walt Disney himself designed the logo (still used today), along with the poster used in the initial national campaign, and later Nat "King" Cole, Peggy Lee, and Vic Damone recorded the Toys for Tots theme.

The Hollywood connections continued, with Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, John Wayne, Tim Allen, Kenny Rogers, Clint Eastwood, and Billy Ray Cyrus as only a few of the long list of celebrities who have given their time and talent to promote Toys for Tots since 1948.

Organized as a 501(C)(3) tax-deductible public charity, thousands of America’s corporations and dozens of thousands of individuals donate money, toys, and time annually. First Lady Nancy Reagan served as the national spokesperson in 1983, as did First Lady Barbara Bush in 1992.

Even in 1990, as Marine reservists were being mobilized for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Hollywood and corporate America stepped in to assist. Merv Griffin’s popular “Wheel of Fortune” TV show teamed with Pizza Hut for a three-week promotion of Toys for Tots that raised in excess of $3 million – and the deploying Marines still distributed 7.9 million toys.

The number of toys donated is staggering, as is the number of children who receive them:
• 1995: 8.1 million toys collected and distributed to 4.2 million children
• 1997: 10 million toys distributed to 4.7 million children
• 1999: 13.7 million toys for 5.9 million children
• 2000: 15.8 million toys for 6.3 million children
• 2003: 15.1 million toys for 6.6 million children
• 2004: 19 million toys for 7.5 million children
• 2006: 19.2 million toys for 7.6 million children

And remembering that the Marine reservists were called up in 2001 to fight in Afghanistan and later Iraq, all of this has been accomplished with 35% of the reservists deployed.

These are the most difficult economic times in memory – which makes it even more difficult to be a child. Take a few minutes this week and donate a wrapped new toy to your local Toys for Tots barrel. Or even better; visit and donate $ 20-30 via Paypal.

Keep faith with the Marines fighting overseas; it’s the right thing to do.

Semper Fi

Read my PZ the Do-Gooder Scrooge blog post about the USO and “coming home.”

Read Nancy Miller’s blog post about all the guests interviewed to date on our new BlogTalkRadio show Your Military Life.

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