MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Combat Center Marines and volunteers with the Toys for Tots program attended a Twentynine Palms High School football game at the Twentynine Palms Junior High School field Oct. 21 to kick off events for this season’s collection drives, which gathers toys for needy area children.
The Combat Center Toys for Tots advisory committee, in coordination with the Reserve Support Unit here, is responsible for more than 15 cities in two counties, spanning more than 6,120 square miles. More than 17,200 children received toys through the program during the 2004 holiday season.
The Marine Corps Forces Reserve Toys for Tots campaign, which began in 1947 in Los Angeles, now encompasses all 50 states and has distributed more than 19 million toys nationwide in 2004.
For those attending the football game, a discount was offered on ticket prices if they donated an unwrapped toy at the gate.
“We started out pretty early this season,” said Sgt. Domingo Adame of the Reserve Support Unit who was one of the Marines in dress blues at the game. “We got a few toys tonight, but this is really just to get the word out that way we can try for a better turnout this year.”
“This is really not about the number of toys that we get out here tonight, it’s more about public awareness and having people see the Marines and the Toys for Tots banner,” said Capt. Mark Bodde, chairman of the Combat Center’s Toys for Tots advisory committee. “That way, later on, they might be more willing to donate.”
Although the number of toys collected so far is only in the hundreds, there is no worry as most of the donations come closer to Christmas.
“We are very early in the season right now we have less than one percent of the toys we are going to collect, which come mainly in November and December,” said Bodde. “That’s when we have all of the functions and events out in town.”
“Our biggest events of the year typically are held in the low desert area,” said Bodde. “For instance, our softball game usually raises about 3,000 toys. But on base we also have the [Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School] run, where we collect anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 toys, depending on the number of Marines that run it.”
This year’s campaign will not implement many new ideas, but will aim to improve and expand on additions made in recent years.
“One of the other things I’d like to see also is we could maybe decrease the number of toys per child on average and to increase the number of children with toys,” said Bodde. “The Toys for Tots program means quite a lot to our community, and I think that’s because the community not only donates but receives toys. So it’s community members helping community members.”
The Marines of RSU look forward to a busy season this year, which means more toys for more kids, and the football game donations were a strong start for local families.
“This is all about giving to the kids and giving back to the community,” said Adame. “As Marines, we are able to help out on the home front and help these needy families here in the desert. We cover a very big area out here, but we know everyone is behind us and it’s worth the effort.”
For families in need of assistance this holiday season, a hotline has been established to call and request a donation for children.
“The hotline is the way in which we sign people up to receive toys in the high desert,” said Bodde. “People in need are able to call up the hotline and we will qualify the parent or guardian for a toy pickup date.”
“Each year we try to get the word out to commands around base that Marines and Sailors also qualify for the program and that they should not hesitate about calling in because they are part of the community, too,” said Bodde.