• May 21, 2024
  • 3:36 PM

Marines Help to Open Hearts Each December

By Chuck N. Baker 

(Las Vegas) — The United States Marine Corps Foundation, other government-organizations and numerous private charities, all work exceedingly hard to ensure children of needy families have positive Christmas experiences. Back in 1775, a Corps of Marines” was established by resolution from the Continental Congress. Since that date, thousands of men and women have borne the name, Marine.” Building on that proud tradition in 1947, a Marine Corps Reservist and his wife established what was envisioned to be a one-time Toys for Tots program, generously giving of themselves and their finances to provide not only gifts of toys, but also the gift of hope to many of Americas children. The program was widely successful and broadly accepted across the country. Before long, the Marine Corps Foundation formally adopted the effort and made it an official annual event. 

Statewide through the coordinated efforts of many sponsors last month, Toys for Tots collection points were established to receive donations of new, unwrapped toys. They were distributed to select charitable organizations to pass on to children who might otherwise not have had a joyous Christmas. While most of these efforts were official Marine Corps Toys for Tots events, many other non-profit organizations and individuals also collected gifts for children. For those who cared, gift-giving to needy children was contagious.  

In Northern Nevada, veteran Ken Santor was in charge of the Toys for Tots collection. In a published statement last month, Santor said, We are very busy here in Reno/Sparks. We have many cases where families have a choice of paying rent or other bills, versus food for the children. Thank God for Toys for Tots, and our foundation. We are grateful for funds to help the parents and children enjoy a Merry Christmas. In Las Vegas, city-wide collection points punctuated with brightly-printed boxes were placed at locations where toys were easily deposited. These were at civilian locations as well as at Nellis AFB. Statewide, thousands of toys were donated and distributed to children who might have otherwise had a blue Christmas instead of a traditional red and green joy-filled morning. The warm and giving attitude of the citys caring residents came through. 

Another organization with a big heart is the Salvation Army, which often assists Toys for Tots. In Las Vegas the monthly arts festival known as First Friday has had to curtail some of its activities due to the Corona virus. But it was not about to stop its planned collection of toys to be distributed to needy families. Several local companies and organizations came together keeping social distance and wearing masks, to collect toys to be delivered at Christmas by the Salvation Army. Alex Pope of Sunbelt Rentals, a company that supplies HVAC services to First Friday, said For something like this, we are happy to be involved collecting toys.” Each toy was later sanitized on site with a commercial grade UV light and spray before being placed in delivery trucks. A spokesperson said the spray will not harm toys. Cassio Bennett was on hand with a charity called Tubs of Love. He said he and founder Bryant Mitchell, an Army veteran, collect toys and food and other items in plastic tubs, and present them to needy families at Christmas time. Another First Friday company was Art Houz Theaters. Although the theater is currently on hiatus due to the pandemic, it provided children with tickets to its showings to be used once its healthy for crowds to gather.  

In Reno/Washoe County, toy collection was in full force at the Toys for Tots offices on Greg Street and Virginia Street, and at the Walmart on 7th Street and other locations. As was the case in Las Vegas, the Salvation Army helped with toy collecting at its community center off Sutro and Oddie Blvd.   

The nation has been through much this year, but the power of the human spirit has been able to adapt and overcome. Col. Ted Silvester, USMC (Ret.) and the vice president of the Toys for Tots Foundation, has circulated a true story that illustrates the power of the Toys for Tots program. Sylvester said that each year since he was 10, a boy named Richie has donated his birthday money and gifts, sold vegetables grown in his garden, and gathered pennies selling aluminum cans to earn cash for Toys for Tots. What makes the story even exceedingly more heartwarming is that Richie has lived with autism since he was born. Yet his focus is on his ability to help others. 

 November 2021 will roll around in the blink of an eye. Its not too early to begin putting away a little pocket change to buy toys to donate next winter. Or, Google Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and send an early donation. You dont have to be a Marine. Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force and civilian donations are always welcome. Semper Fi!    

# # #