Originally Published December 1999
Each year since 1947, U.S. Marines throughout the United States conduct local Toys for Tots campaigns from October through December. For over 50 years, these Marines have worked tirelessly to bring the joy of Christmas to America's neediest children.
The program started in 1947, just 2 years after the end of World War 11, and was the vision of Marine Corps Reserve Maj Bill Hendricks. It began with a "Raggedy Ann" doll handcrafted by Hendricks' wife, Diane. She asked Bill to find a charitable organization that would deliver the doll to a needy child at Christmas. Bill searched the Los Angeles area but was unable to locate any agency with the mission of providing toys to needy children. His search convinced him that there were thousands of children in Los Angeles who would not know the joy of Christmas. At the urging of his wife and with the support of his CO, Maj Hendricks and a handful of Marine Corps Reservists collected 5,000 toys that they distributed to needy children on Christmas day. In so doing, they launched the Toys for Tots Program.
The 1947 campaign was so successful that the Marine Corps expanded it into a nationwide program in 1948. Each succeeding year, every Marine Corps Reserve site throughout America has conducted a Christmas toy collection and distribution campaign in the community surrounding their Reserve Center. The program has grown from that initial collection of 5,000 toys to a present day average of over 8 million toys each Christmas. Marines now fulfill the Christmas dreams of more than 4 million children annually.
The program was enhanced in 1991 with the introduction of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation as the fundraising and support organization for Toys for Tots. During the past 7 years, the Foundation has supplemented the collections of Marines with 16 million toys.
In areas where there is not a Reserve Center, local community organizations, with the approval of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, conduct Toys for Tots campaigns within their local communities each Christmas. These organizations, groups, corporations, and individuals have made it possible for Marines to collect and distribute over 243 million toys between 1947 and 1998.
To find the name and telephone number of the Marine Corps Reserve site nearest you, log on to the Foundation's web site . Alternatively, you can support the national program by contacting the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation at the following address: Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, 715 Broadway Street, P.O. Box 1947, Quantico, VA 22134; telephone 703-640-9433. The Foundation would welcome your tax deductible donation.