Thanks to a generous community, this year’s Christmas Toys for Tots drive in the Mountain Area by the Marine Crops League Griswold Mountain Detachment 1121 of Oakhurst provided 1,200 children with nearly 4,800 toys valued at $50,000.
All the toys collected were separated by gender and age to ensure the right presents were going to the right child. On average, each child received three presents and stocking stuffers.
This year’s toy drive was coordinated by Dennis Osantowski, with the help of Marine Corps League members.
“I want to thank all the individuals who made donations of toys, cash and checks during the toy drive,” Osantowski said. “This whole season was an outpouring of compassion from all the mountain communities. This is what Toys for Tots means. This would have not been possible without the dedication of all the volunteers, and the giving nature of area residents, businesses, and organizations.”
Osantowski said many people anonymously donated anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars.
“Every dollar and every toy collected in Eastern Madera County stayed in our area to help children and families in need - and we deeply appreciate every donor.”
The annual Toy Round-Up, the largest event of the season for the Griswold Mountain Detachment, was held Dec. 5 in the parking lot of the Old Mill Shopping Center (Vons). According to Osantowski, detachment volunteers collected nearly 300 toys and $1,900 in cash donations during the six-hour event.
The detachment was assisted by Madera County Fire Department Station 12 (Oakhurst) and Cal Fire’s Bass Lake and Ahwahnee stations. The Yosemite High School cheer squad held a bake sale throughout the day and donated all profits to Toys for Tots. The Minarets High School Equestrian Team also assisted.
In addition to the Toy Round-Up, other special events were held for the drive including a wine tasting at Idle Hour Winery, a toy-for-toy drive at True Value Hone Center, and a Christmas Boutique held by the Christ Church Women.
Other major sponsors included Sullivan’s Tire Pros, Cal Fire, the Madera County Fire Department, Madera County Sheriff's Department, CHP, Xi Chi Beta Soroity, Sierra Mountain Quilters Association, VFW Post 8743, Road Rattlers, Coarsegold Corvettes Car Club, Coarsegold Chamber of Commerce, Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, Mountain Bear Fan Club, Northland Communications, Oakhurst Shopping Center (Eric Wilkins), Sierra Star, Sierra Tel, Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS), Sunrise Rotary Club, True Value Home Center in Yosemite Lakes Park, Yosemite Mortgage, and 41-49 Property Management.
Yosemite High School student Autumn Mitchell assisted throughout the campaign for her Senior Project.
The Mountain Area Toys for Tots drive started 13 years ago. The first year, 300 children were served with $5,000 worth of toys. Over the past 13 years, the Griswold Mountain Detachment has collected nearly $585,000 in toys and cash contributions for the children of Eastern Madera County.
Toys for Tots began in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, with support from members of his Los Angeles Marine Corps Reserve unit, collected and distributed toys to needy children. The next year the Marine Corps expanded the program nationwide. Since then, the program has collected and distributed close to 500 million toys.