Toys for Tots accepting donations till Dec. 24
CAMP FOSTER — The U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve Toys for Tots program is in full swing on Okinawa and will complete its 21st consecutive year serving local communities.
The program, which started in 1947, has allowed the Marine Corps to operate in a capacity outside its traditional role, according to Staff Sgt. Victor Rodriguez, the Toys for Tots head coordinator on Okinawa, currently serving with the III Marine Expeditionary Force reserve liaison office.
Volunteers with the program help collect and distribute toys to underprivileged children. Interacting with the local community by showing both gratitude and compassion for fellow citizens exemplifies the spirit and virtues the Marine Corps holds dear: honor, courage and commitment, added Rodriguez.
As Christmas approaches, service members and their families still have an opportunity to participate in the program, which is currently accepting donations at the military exchanges on Camps Kinser, Foster and Courtney, Kadena Air Base, and U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa on Camp Lester. Drop boxes are available at these locations through Dec. 24.
“For most children it’s not about what’s in the box,” said Sgt. Michael A. Smyth, a Toys for Tots program volunteer and legal services chief with the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Corps
Base Camp Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “The kids enjoy knowing that even though times may be tough, there is someone out there who cares.”
The Marine Toys for Tots foundation is recognized by the Marine Corps as the authorized fundraising and support organization for the Toys for Tots program and is an official mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
“I saw this as an opportunity to step outside of the normal operational tempo of the Marine Corps and interact within the local community,” said Rodriguez. “Participating with Toys for Tots allows service members to bring hope to children
around the globe.”
The toys are donated to families who contact program representatives looking for assistance to provide their children with the best Christmas possible, both on Okinawa and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The program distributed 18,471 toys to more than 8,000 children last year, showing significant growth by more than doubling the 7,564 toys distributed five years ago.
The program on Okinawa is coordinated by the III MEF reserve liaison office and executed by active-duty personnel. The program relies heavily on both military and civilian volunteers.
“For the past 65 years, Marines have been giving back to their local communities through Toys for Tots,” said Smyth. “I do it not only because it is a Marine Corps tradition, but also because it gives me a sense of pride and happiness knowing children will feel a little more loved this Christmas holiday.”
The program has donated to more than 50 orphanages and schools on Okinawa. “The children receiving the gifts are very appreciative,” said Rodriguez. “For many of them, the toys they receive from the program may be the only gifts they
get for Christmas.”
For more information about the Toys for Tots program or volunteer opportunities, call 645-8068.