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A Handmade Raggedy Ann That Sparked A Mission

by Susannah Wollman

In 1947 Los Angeles, a kind woman made a lovely Raggedy Ann doll. She wanted to give it to a needy child, but there were no organizations to do so. Diane Hendricks, the wife of Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR, suggested to her husband that they should remedy that. Inspired by his wife, Major Hendricks gathered a group of local Marine reservists, including Lieutenant Colonel John Hampton. They coordinate and collected some 5,000 toys for local children in the first year from collection bins places outside Warner Bros. movie theaters. That began a charity with the mission “to collect new unwrapped toys and distribute those toys to less fortunate children at Christmas.”

Until 1979, Marine reservists put on their dress blues, and they and local volunteers collected and refurbished used toys. However, the mixed message of giving hand-me-downs as a message of hope, as well as legal concerns (accidentally giving recalled toys), the Marines in 1980 decided to accept only new toys. Besides, reservists were dedicating drill hours to refurbishing toys!

The Secretary of Defense in 1994 approved Toys for Tots as an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve. However, many communities didn’t have a Marine reservist presence. So the commander of the Marine Forces Reserve decided that Marine Corps League detachments were needed to fill the gap. He authorized the League and with other local organizations, communities everywhere could collect and distribute toys to kids who otherwise probably wouldn’t get one at Christmas.

As of 2016, the Toys for Tots Program and Foundation have collected and distributed more than 512 million toys. Now, the charity has broadened its efforts to support underprivileged children across America year-round.

Their Literacy Program provides age-appropriate books to children in low-income neighborhoods, and they have a Native American Program that donate books and toys to children on participating Reservations in collaboration with th eOffice of the Vice President of the Navajo Nation’s Navajo Literacy Program.

Mission of Toys for Tots

The mission of the program is “to collect new unwrapped toys and distribute those toys to less fortunate children at Christmas.”

The stated goal is to “deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, and patriotic citizens.”

Toys for Tots is assiduously altruistic when it comes to providing books and toys to children in need wherever they are in America. But the most wonderful thing they do is provide joy.

What you can do to help this holiday season

Here are some ways that you can participate in Toys for Tots. To find a campaign in your community, go here.

  • Donate toys (or online) to your local campaign
  • Apply to be a toy drop location
  • hold a Marine Toys for Tots fundraising event
  • Volunteer with your local campaign

To see if your child qualifies for toys or for questions about your toy application, click here. 

This year, give the best gift you can give to a child who otherwise may go without.