Marines are a fearsome breed. Successes in places like Belleau Wood, Tarawa, Khe Sanh, Fallujah, and Helmand have proven over and over again that Marines are our nation’s finest warfighters. While that’s what Marines are mostly known for, each recruit is trained to be compassionate and benevolent as well. The recent Kabul evacuation showed Marines, mostly known for their battle prowess, taking care of children, providing aid, and working to bring what security they could. This has long been a part of Marine Corps tradition, and its exemplified in Toys for Tots.
Right around this time every year, you likely see Marines looking sharp in their dress blues at Toys for Tots events. You might wonder how exactly did the Marine Corps become so intertwined with Toys for Tots. Marines are big on tradition, and most do like helping people, so it seems like a natural partnership.
Well, what if I told you the relationship goes a bit deeper than that?
Toys for Tots and the United States Marine Corps
It’s 1947, and a young lady named Diane Hendricks is stricken with a feeling of giving back. It’s right after the Second World War, and her husband, Bill Hendricks, is a Marine major. She likely knows many widows and many orphans from that bloody mess in the Pacific. Diane makes toys, in fact, dolls. She wants to donate them to an organization that can give them to less fortunate children. So, she tasks her husband with finding an agency and giving away her homemade dolls.
Well, Major Hendricks tries but realizes that no such agency exists. Hendricks follows orders; that’s the purpose of a Marine. With no agency to donate the toys to, he decides to make one. Major Hendricks goes to his reserve unit and hatches a plan for his scheme. He pitches it to his fellow Marines, and they get to work, making it a reality.
In short order, his unit organizes and collects 5,000 toys and donates them in the LA area. Marines are good with a rifle, great with a bayonet, and hamsters of logistics. The Marine Corps is the only unit tasked with fighting the war from the sea, and logistics win wars. Marines can organize, plan and execute and that’s exactly what Major Hendricks and his reserve unit did. Toys for Tots was born.
News of this effort crosses the desk of one General Alexander A. Vandegrift. He’s the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, and he’s suitably impressed at the efforts of his men. He is so impressed, in fact, that he directs all Marine Corps Reserve Sites to implement their own Toys For Tots program. The endeavor became a national community action plan in 1948.
Bill Hendricks was a reservist, and his civilian job was director of public relations at Warner Brothers. He rubbed elbows with some big wigs, and he knew people. Walt Disney designed the first poster for Toys for Tots and the famed Red Train logo as a favor. A song was also composed, and the likes of Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, and Peggy Lee recorded it. Warner Brothers also placed collection bins outside their theatres.
In short order, Toys for Tots became a nationwide success. Every year the program grew and became more successful. In 1991 the secretary of defense authorized the creation of a nonprofit charity foundation, and in 1995, Toys for Tots became an official part of the Marine Corps Reserve Mission.
The program continued to grow and since not every community has a Marine Reserve unit, the commander of the Marine Reserves authorized the Marine Corps League to help fill the gap. In 2009 First Lady Michele Obama placed the First Toys for Tots collection box at the White House.
As of 2016, the Toys for Tots program has distributed over 512 million toys.
From the Halls of Montezuma
The stated goal of the Toys For Tots program 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 my favorite charity. Not just because it’s closely related to the Marine Corps but because it’s one of the few I seriously trust. How many charities use massive sums of donated money to pay salaries and to fundraise? Way too many. Knowing the Marine Corps is running the shows brings me a sense of comfort. Charity Navigator gives Toys for Tots four out of four stars.
Now you know why the Toys for Tots program is so closely connected to the Marine Corps. If you have the money or an unopened toy, please think about donating to Toys for Tots. It’s a fantastic organization. It’s one of the many reasons I’m proud to be a Marine.
Read more from Sandboxx News
- Forget Hallmark: This is the best military-themed Christmas movie ever made
- Sandboxx’s military gift guide for your servicemember
- Teachable moments for well-meaning family and friends
- Letters to Loretta: A series into the power of humanity to persevere during war
- Space Marines: These are our 5 favorite sci-fi troopers