Thanks to generous Mountain Area individuals and businesses and the hard work of the Marine Corps League, the annual Toys for Tots drive proved to be a big success with 4,200 toys valued at $50,000 being distributed to nearly 1,500 children throughout Eastern Madera County.
The campaign kicked off Nov. 12 and ran through Dec. 20 with 90 Toys for Tots donation boxes at 75 locations throughout Raymond, O'Neals, North Fork, Coarsegold, Ahwahnee, Oakhurst, Bass Lake and Fish Camp.
"Each year, I get a little apprehensive when the drive begins because the list of children in need continues to grow," said Mike Perreira, the Mountain Area coordinator for the Marine Corps Reserve program -- along with his wife Brenda -- both members of the Marine Corps League. "But thanks to the generous residents and businesses of the area, we were once again able to get three toys to every child whose name was submitted to us."
Members of the Griswold Mountain Detachment 1121 Marine Corps League collected the names of less fortunate boys and girls in Eastern Madera County from Manna House, 20 area churches, 25 traditional and alternative schools,the Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst and six federal, state and county agencies.
In addition to toys, $10,000 was donated to the cause.
"We collected more than $6,500 in toys and money in nine hours at our biggest event of the season, the toy round-up at the Old Mill Village on Dec. 1," Perreira said.
Perreira said 100% of the funds collected are used to purchase toys and basic supplies to run the campaign.
"I want to thank the sponsors including Cal Fire, the sheriff's office, the sheriff's Citizens on Patrol, 41/49 property management, DiBuduo & Defendis, the Sierra Star, Sierra Tel Corp., 2Ts Storage and Campora Propane for donating goods and services to assist our efforts," Perreira said.
Perreira also pointed out businesses, service groups and clubs that supported the Toys for Tots toy drive including T.O.P.S. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), Sunrise Rotary Club and Susan Macaulay, VFW Post 8743, Yosemite High School Cheer and Pep Squads coached by Jennifer Lincoln, Theresa Bryant and True Value Home Center, Sullivan's TirePros, Queens Inn/Idle Hour Winery's Anna Marie dos Remedios and Deb Payne, Elks Lodge, Mountain Road Rattlers, Oakhurst Family Chiropractic, the "Decrepit Riders" motorcycle Club, Hair Care Plus, Northland Communications and Max Stauffer, owner of the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad for donating $2,000 worth of steam train tickets.
"We were also fortunate to have Katrina Burough, a senior at YHS, work with us again this year for her senior project," said Perreira. "She is a sweet, smart young lady that worked well with all our volunteers and everyone in the public she came in contact with during the campaign."
Other significant contributors to the campaign were Coarsegold Elementary School and Rivergold Elementary School, both contributing more than 100 toys, Pete's Place and Oakhurst Lutheran Church.
Perreira made special note of the Yosemite High School Cheer and Pep squads, organized by Lincoln and assisted by Jennifer Mearse, who raised more than $1,100 from a bake sale and helped promote the Dec. 3 Old Mill Toy Round-Up. He was also touched by the Daises, a scouting group of 5 and 6-year-old girls that raised money to buy toys by collecting and recycling bottles and cans.
"All these businesses and organizations contributed a significant amount of toys and money towards the Toys for Tots drive this year," Perreira said.
A driving force behind the event are 20 members of the Marine Corps League Griswold Detachment 1121 and their spouses who spend two months working on the toy drive distributing toy collection boxes, collecting toys and funds, attending all the special events and sorting and tagging all the donated and purchased toys to assure they are delivered to the right children depending on their age and gender.
"It's great that local business, clubs, organizations and individuals continue to be so supportive of the drive year after year," Perreira said. "Every year we have to give out more toys and we have been able to match our collections with the needs of the mountain communities. I can't thank everyone enough for their generosity during these tough economic times to help our neighbors at Christmas time."
Perreira said it's always great to see parents and their children donating toys at our events.
"The toy collection events are pretty special," Perreira said. "It's not just about children receiving toys ... you can see the children donating are getting a lot out of their act of giving. It's a joyful thing to see."