Cancelled from the week before due to bad weather, the annual Toys for Tots Toy Round-Up at the Old Mill Shopping Center last Saturday culminated . On hand collecting new unwrapped toys, cash and checks were 20 members of the Marine Corps League Griswold Mountain Detachment 1121 and their wives, and five fireman, who arrived in three fire engines from Oakhurst Station 12, Bass Lake and Ahwahnee Cal Fire stations.
According to Mike Perreira, Toys for Tots coordinator for the Mountain Area, more than 275 toys and $3,300 was raised during the day-long event. Contributing to the funds raised was the Yosemite High School cheer and pep teams, under the direction of coach Jennifer Lincoln and parent Jennifer Mearse, who sold $1,350 worth of baked goods during the day.
People drove through the toy drop-off location in the parking lot near CVS Pharmacy between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and purchased baked goods from a table set-up near the entrance to Vons. Occasionally the cheer and pep group would brighten the day with a Christmas song.
"The girls understood that today was about giving back," Lincoln said. "I told them that they have wonderful lives, but there are many children in our community who go without meals and new clothes, and wouldn't otherwise have toys under their Christmas trees if it wasn't for Toys for Tots." One such act of generosity came from Greg and Debbie Gerber of Coarsegold, who drove up to the toy drop-off area with the back of their car filled with 60 collectable toy cars. The cars, primarily from Disney productions, have been available over the years through Chevron gas stations. The Gerber's have been collecting the cars for 15 years.
"We're running out of room for them at home, and besides, we figured the children can use them better than us," Greg, who has a resemblance to Santa, said.
Ralph, a retired Marine, and Marilyn Bouknight, residents of Yosemite Lakes Park, brought several toys to the event.
"We are a military family and we give to Toys for Tots every year," Marilyn said. "My son-in-law, Michael Comrie, just returned to Lemoore Navel Air Station after a nine-month deployment on the supercarrier USS Nimitz."
According to Perreira, more than 4,600 toys were distributed to more than 1,450 children in the Mountain Area last year and he expects this year's distribution to be about the same.
"The Toys for Tots program makes a big difference in the lives of some of the less fortunate children and their parents in the Mountain Area," Perreira said. "Every year we hear from parents who tell us how grateful they are for the Toys for Tots program."
Names of children receiving toys are primarily provided by area churches and schools. Then the toys are hand-picked based on the child's age and gender, with smaller and older children receiving three toys each.
About 20 members of the Marine corps League Griswold Mountain Detachment and their wives donate some 1,200 hours during the drive collecting, sorting and delivering toys throughout the area.
"We work hard to make sure that the three-year-old boys and the 12-year-old girls in the community receive gifts they will be happy with," Perreira said.
Seven members of Oakhurst Brownie and Daisy Troop 3041, along with leaders Julie Davidson and Teri Blea, delivered toys that they purchased with funds raised from a year-round recycling program. Delivering the toys were Sonia O'Brien, Olivia Walters, Emma Blea, Maddie Davidson, Savannah Riley, Julia Leyva, Ella Shaw, and Zoe Mazaira.
Firemen on hand for the Toy Round-Up included Ryan Davis, Richard Chow, Mike Ford, Steve Medowsky and Captain Richard Brechbule.
This year's Toys for Toys sponsors are Cal Fire, Marine Corps League Detachment 1121, Madera County Fire Department, Madera County Sheriff's Department, Sullivan's Tire Pros, VFW Post 8743, Queens Inn/Idle Hour Winery, Yosemite Brokerage, and the Sierra Star.
Details: Mike and Brenda Perreira, (559) 658-6311.