Because toys have become such an integral part of Christmas, it is not surprising that many charitable organizations are involved in the collection and distribution of toys throughout the holiday season. The greatest and best known of these is the Toys for Tots Foundation, whose mission is to “collect unwrapped toys… and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted”. Over the last two decades, Toys for Tots has distributed on average about four and a half million toys every year.
Toys for Tots had its humble beginnings in 1947, when a Marine Corps Reserve officer, Major William L. Hendricks, organized a small toy drive in the Los Angeles area. At the suggestion of his wife, who wished to donate a homemade toy to a poor home, Hendricks worked with his reserve unit to collect and refurbish toys. Called Toys for Tots, the drive was a success, and over five thousand toys were distributed in the local community. It was also a major public relations bonanza for the United States Marine Corps, who decided to institutionalize it.
The next year, Toys for Tots went national. Marine Reserve units all over the country went about collecting and distributing toys throughout the holidays, aided by the publicity efforts of Hollywood studios and celebrities. It was a wild success, and a permanent foundation was established in 1991 in order to facilitate toy collection, fundraising and other charitable work. Toys for Tots is now regularly counted every year among the Philanthropy 400, and is, along with the Salvation Army, the most visible and popular charitable organization active during the holiday season in the United States.
The Toys for Tots Foundation is located just outside of the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Triangle, Virginia, approximately thirty miles southwest of Washington, D.C. Although there is not much to see, bring a toy or donation and shake the hands of someone who has devoted their life to bringing joy to children at Christmas time. There is no cost for admission. Web: www.toysfortots.org (official website of the Toys for Tots Foundation)