SUFFOLK, Va. --
On a brisk, quiet, November morning, members of the Hampton Roads Radio Control club were setting up for their first Toys For Tots fly-in. The calm was broken by the methodic beating of the twin rotors of a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter as it approached the flying field.
To the club’s delight, the “Frog” emblazoned with the tactical markings of the US Marine Corps’ HMM-774 squadron from Marine Aircraft Group 42, in Norfolk, Va., settled softly on the ground near the runway. This signaled the beginning of the festivities to mark HRRC’s endeavor to help disadvantaged children in the Hampton Roads area have a merry Christmas.
Events included unlimited flying with donation of a new, unwrapped toy, food served throughout the day, buddy box tethered flying for aspiring pilots, HRRC air show team demonstration for spectators and a raffle.
The day proved to be a huge success with food and raffle donations totaling almost $1,400 and 134 toys collected. This was one of the Marines’ biggest events, said Lance Corporal Josh Baughman.
“In the short time I have been here, HRRC collected more toys than when I stood outside a local toy store for the day,” he said.
Marines in dress blue uniform stood guard to ensure each toy would greet a shining little face on Christmas morning. By the end of the day, two large boxes were overflowing with gifts.
Food was abundant during the event, and attendees dug deep to fill the donation jar as they filed through the line. Club members had prepared homemade favorites to contribute to the feast as others manned the grill to cook what appeared to be hundreds of pounds of hamburgers, hotdogs and sausages.
For guests that wanted to give radio control flying a try, instructors were available with a trainer airplane to give them a taste of the wild blue yonder. Young and old alike enjoyed the opportunity and even the Marine helicopter crew gave it a shot. Each were given a chance to pilot the aircraft, sometimes with interesting results.
“He (instructor) only had to take it away from me twice,” said Lt. Colonel Phil Grathwol, the MAG-42 commanding officer and CH-46 pilot. “I think I did pretty good!”
Local and national hobby stores generously donated items for a raffle which provided over $900 of the donations. In the spirit of giving, many winners auctioned off their prizes to further increase the contribution.
At the end of the day, 45 pilots registered to fly and over 200 spectators joined HRRC in supporting the Marines program. Everybody is looking forward to next year when the club will host its 2nd annual Toys For Tots fly-in.
“I think we will make this a regular thing. It’s a pleasure for us to be here and it’s a pleasure to have these guys come out and serve the Toys For Tots program, which is what it is all about,” said Grathwol,.
Hampton Roads Radio Control club prides itself on the outstanding support of its members and their families. To some, it is much more than a club.
“When I saw the Marines load the boxes of toys on the CH-46 and take off, I closed my eyes and said ‘Thank you GOD for making sure at least some children won't be disappointed on Christmas morning.’ Today changed the way I look at kids and Christmas. Just as important is how much more pride I have in Hampton Roads RC.
When a person decides to join us they don't just join a club, they become a member of a family,” said Frank Blanchard, HRRC life member.