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A History of Giving

Toys for Tots began in 1947 when Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. The idea came from Bill's wife, Diane who hand crafted a Raggedy Ann doll and asked Bill to deliver the doll to an organization for the benefit of a needy child.

When Bill realized that no agency existed, Diane suggested to Bill that he should start one. And he did. The 1947 campaign that ensued was so successful that the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948 and expanded it into a nationwide campaign.

That year, Marine Corps Reserve units across the nation conducted Toys for Tots campaigns in each community in which a Reserve unit was located. And Marines have conducted successful nationwide campaigns at Christmas each year since 1948.

The initial goal that remains the hallmark of the program today is to "bring the joy of Christmas to America's needy children." Bill Hendricks, a Marine Reservist on weekends, was, in civilian life, the publicity director for Warner Brothers Studio. This enabled him to convince a vast array of celebrities to support Toys for Tots.

In 1948, Walt Disney designed the Toys for Tots logo which we use today. Disney also designed the first Toys for Tots poster used to promote the nationwide program. Nat "King" Cole, Peggy Lee, and Vic Damone recorded the Toys for Tots song written by Sammy Fain and Paul Webster in 1956. Bob Hope, John Wayne, Doris Day, Lorrie Morgan, Tim Allen and Kenny Rogers are but a few of the long list of celebrities who have given their time and talent to promote Toys for Tots.

First Lady Nancy Reagan served as a national spokesperson during President Reagan's presidency. First Lady Barbara Bush served as the national spokesperson in 1992 and in her autobiography named Toys for Tots as one of her favorite charities.

From 1947 through 1979, Marines collected and distributed new and used toys. On Reserve drill weekends during October, November and December, Reserve Marines even refurbished the used toys.

Since 1980, Marines have collected and distributed only new toys. At the height of the Cold War, Reservists had to dedicate every minute of weekend drill time to honing and polishing combat skills, leaving no time to refurbish toys. Also, safety concerns of 1970-era toys prompted the change.

In addition, distributing "hand me down" toys didn't seem to send the the right message to needy children. The goal was to deliver a message of hope which will build self-esteem and, in turn, motivate needy children to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens and community leaders. The Toys for Tots program thought a shiny new toy was the best means of accomplishing this goal.

In the late 1980s, the Marine Corps determined that a private charitable organization was needed as an integral part of the overall national Toys for Tots program. In 1991, the Secretary of Defense authorized the Marine Corps to recognize and work with a charity committed to supporting Toys for Tots. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation became an operational organization in September 1991, and has been the fund raising and support organization for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program since then.

In 1995, the Secretary of Defense approved Toys for Tots as an official program of the U.S. Marine Corps and as an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve.

In 1996, the Commander, Marine Forces Reserve expanded Toys for Tots to cover all 50 states by authorizing selected Marine Corps League Detachments and selected local civilian organizations (generally former Marines), located in communities far removed from Marine Reserve Centers, to conduct toy collection and distribution campaigns in their communities as part of the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Prog ram.

In the latter part of the 1990's, the Toys for Tots campaign grew by leaps and bounds. 1997 was marked by a record number of toy donations, benefitting millions of kids.

In 1998, Toys for Tots began its second half century with a successful toy collection and distribution campaign that distributed 11.2 million toys to 4.8 million needy children. Toy collection and distribution campaigns were conducted in 314 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. And every year since, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has broken records, thanks to the hard work of thousands of volunteers, as well as the generosity of a nation.

And with your support, 2002 can be a record year for some children who could use some holiday cheer.










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