It’s a staple of the holidays, but how much do you really know about the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program?
- The program was started by Major Bill Hendricks of the USMC Reserves in 1947, making this year the 68th year of the toy drive.
- Walt Disney created the program’s train logo, and many famous cartoon characters including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Dennis the Menace and Bugs Bunny have been featured on posters during the holiday season.
- The New York Yankees sponsored the first major sports event to benefit Toys for Tots in 1962. During a game with the Washington Senators, fans were encouraged to “bring a toy” to the game, kicking off a trend that has resulted in nearly every team from every sport having supported Toys for Tots.
- 1980 was the first year the Marine Corps only collected and distributed new toys; prior to that, the program was open to used toys.
- The first toy to be donated to the program was a handmade doll, made by the founder’s wife, Diane Hendricks.
- Toys for Tots was approved as an official activity of the Marine Corps and an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve in 1995.
- The program was extended to all 50 states in 1996 using Marine Corps League Detachments and local community organizations, usually veteran Marines, for toy collection.
- After Sept. 11, 2001, a special event was held during the first week of December for children who had lost a parent during the attacks on New York City and Washington DC.
- During the early years of the war on terror, the Marines relied on local communities for toy collection as the deployment tempo increased for both active marines and the reserves.
- The economic collapse in 2008 created an increased need for toys as citizens tried to make it through the holidays. Even amid low donations due to Americans having less spendable income, the program flourished.
Toys for Tots has consistently been rated as one of the top philanthropic charities in the country, and the Marines, veterans and volunteers who donate their time continue to make sure the program thrives each year. To find toy drop-off locations in your area, go to www.toysfortots.org.