The U.S. Marine Corps providing Christmas toys for children has been a holiday tradition since 1947 when Major Bill Hendricks of Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children.
His program was so successful, the following year the Marine Corps adopted it and expanded it nationwide as the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. In the past 60 years more than 400 million toys have been collected and distributed.
Last year, 2,700 toys were distributed to more than 1,000 children in Eastern Madera County. The Mountain Area coordinator for the drive is Mike Perreira.
"Toys for Tots in the Mountain Area communities makes a difference in the lives of less fortunate children," Perreira said. "We expect the need for toys to be great this year and we are reaching out for everyone's help."
Toys for Tots boxes will be at 60 mountain locations Monday, Nov. 16 through Friday, Dec. 11, for people to drop off new, unwrapped toys. "What we collect in the Mountain Area -- toys and money -- stays in the Mountain Area," said Perreira, who first volunteered for a Toys for Tots drive with his college fraternity in 1965. He said the success of the program is due to the generosity of concerned citizens, schools, churches and business leaders.
"The gift of a shiny new toy means a lot to a needy child," Perreira said. "It means to a child that they have not been forgotten, that Christmas has not passed them by."
Special events tied to Toys for Tots this year include:
Toy collection from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21 at True Value Hardware on Highway 49. Assisting with the collections will be the local Marine Corps League, Madera County Fire Department and the Sheriff's Department. When you hand your toy donation to a Marine, True Value Hardware will also donate a toy in your honor, doubling the donation.
For the fourth straight year, Big O Tires will have a promotional program to benefit Toys for Tots with special discounts and incentives from Nov. 23 through Dec. 19.
The Pines Resort at Bass Lake will hold a Toys for Tots raffle and toy collection during their Tree Lighting and Parade of Lights at 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 28. Last year 150 toys were collected at the event.
You can visit the www.gardenpathbeads.com the week of Nov. 30 for an auction-style sale. 100% of the proceeds will go to Toys for Tots.
The Queens Inn and Idle Hour Winery will hold a reception at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4. Admission is $10 per person or a new, unwrapped toy to enjoy 10 different wines. Quality wines will be for sale by the bottle with a portion of the proceeds going to Toys for Tots, along with the admission fee and new toys.
At 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4 and 5, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 6, the Golden Chain Theatre will present its Christmas Spectacular and will provide a toy collection box and donation jar at the theatre entrance.
The Marine Corps League will hold a Toy Roundup between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5 in the Vons parking lot.
Oakhurst Family Chiropractic will host a reception for Toys for Tots from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12, and will have a collection box in the office throughout the toy drive.
This year's sponsors include American Legion Post 110, Big O Tires, Cal Fire, Golden Chain Theatre, Madera County Fire Department, Madera County Sheriff's Department, Marine Corps League Detachment 1121, Pines Resort, Sierra Star and VFW Post 8743.
Perreira said that, in addition to assisting with toys, the community is encouraged to provide names of children that would benefit from Toys for Tots. Names can be given to school officials, churches, or to Perreira.
Details: Mike and Brenda Perreira, (559) 658-6311.