Toys for Tots donation drive is underway

To the Editor:

The 2016 annual USMC Reserve Toys for Tots campaign in now underway. We are soliciting for new, unwrapped toys to give to youngsters ranging in ages from infancy through 18.

We also accept monies and/or checks made out to Toys for Tots and/or gift cards to be utilized for our mission.

I am the district coordinator for the greater Bedford area. We are placing collection boxes throughout the district in various selected businesses and offices. These locations are identified by posters and/or banners. They are operational only during business hours.

Our Bedford Police Department has supported us for many years and they are a collection site that operates 24/7. It is centrally located at the Bedford Safety Complex on Route 101 just west of the Route 114 intersection.

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. In the fall of 1947, Diane crafted a homemade doll and asked Bill to deliver the doll to an organization, which would give it to a needy child at Christmas. When Bill determined that no agency existed, Diane told Bill that he should start one. He did. The 1947 pilot project was so successful that the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948 and expanded it into a nationwide campaign.

Marines have conducted nationwide campaigns at Christmas each year since 1948.

Bill Hendricks, a Marine reservist on weekends, was in civilian life, the director of public relations 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 poster used to promote the nationwide program. Nate "King" Cole, Peggy Lee and Vic Damone recorded the Toys for Tots theme. Many celebrities gave their time and talent to promote Toys for Tots: John Wayne, Bob Hope, Doris Day, Kenny Rogers, Billy Ray Cyrus and a host of others. First Lady Barbara Bush served as the national spokesperson in 1992.

We Marines of today are no less motivated than the Marines of Bill Hendricks to continue the mission. It is simple: to give something to that youngster who otherwise would be without, and put a smile on his or her face. Merry Christmas.

Bernie Ruchin

Gunnery Sergeant USMC

Bedford District Coordinator

Bedford