Diane Hendricks had no idea what she was starting the day in 1947 she complained to her husband Bill that she wanted to donate a handmade Raggedy Ann doll to a needy child for Christmas, and that there wasn’t an organization established to make that connection in Los Angeles.
Bill was a Major in the United States Marine Reserves and he spoke with his fellow Reservists who help coordinate the collection and distribution of 5,000 toys that year. Major Bill Hendricks had a secret weapon within his Reserve Unit in the person of Lt. Col. John Hampton.
The Lieutenant Colonel happened to be an executive with the Warner Brothers Studios, and with his connections in that company the Marine Reservists were able to place collection bins in every single Warner Brothers Studio owned theaters. My dad happened to also be a part of the Marine Reserve Unit but I must report his contribution was limited to serving as a grunt in the collection process and not in any of the planning or organization of the gift collection program.
The collection program was so successful that in 1948, Toys for Tots was launched as a national campaign and Lt. Col. Hampton was able to secure celebrity endorsements of the Toys for Tots program and then convinced Walt Disney to design the now very familiar red train Toys for Tots logo.
Up until 1979, the Marine Reservists collected and used toys and the Reservists spent their spare time refurbishing the used toys. Since 1980 the Marines have only accepted new and unwrapped toys for distribution. This was done to eliminate the appearance of giving “hand-me-down” toys as a message of hope to poor children along with concerns for liability should a child get injured from a refurbished toy.
In 1996 it became a concern that many communities across this great land did not have a Marine Corps Reserve Unit and so the decision was made to enlist the help of the many detachments of the Marine Corps League to assist in the collection and distribution of the toys as well as other local organizations. This is why we see great groups such as Cal Fire and Police/Sheriff Departments working alongside those uniformed Marines at collection stations.
The mission goal of the Toys for Tots program is simple, “To deliver a new toy at Christmas as a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.” It isn’t a handout but a helping hand.
Since that first Raggedy Ann doll, the Toys for Tots program has collected and distributed more than 469 million toys to kids who probably would not get a present on Christmas Day without the help of those Marine Reservists.
Last weekend the major push for Toys for Tots took place in our area and across the United States with thousands of toys being collected. Most who are reading this column probably donated but many either forgot or were unable to make that donation during the Toys for Tots marathon. In the movies, the cavalry charge was heard and the cavalry rode in at the last minute and saved the day.
In this case, our cavalry, the Griswold Detachment of the Marine Corps League, has set in motion the plan to allow those who still wish to contribute the absolute last minute opportunity to do so and make it possible for that new toy to get into the hands of a deserving youngster.
The Marine Corps League still has a few of their boxes around town and I have been asked by the Marine Reservists to share with you there will be collection boxes at the Bryant’s True Value Hardware store on Highway 49, as well as CVS Pharmacy in the Von’s Old Mill Shopping Center.
Here is your last chance to help those burly, gruff-sounding, freedom fighters to help Santa get gifts to kid’s right here in our own area. What’s donated here is given here. If you have that new unwrapped toy just drop it off. If you intend to buy one then do it today or at least by this Sunday, Dec. 13, or it will be too late. No time to shop? Drop them a check made out to the Griswold Detachment MCL and they will even do the shopping.
The Reservists will thank you, the youngster getting the gift will be thankful and you will feel better for helping out. My dad would tell me, “Get a move on.”
The Griswold Marine Corps League just says, “Please help us.”