Marines Step Up To Help Santa

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The presence of chilly weather and seasonal retail sales signifies the nearing Christmas holiday. Many cherish the time spent with families, but children wait all year to unwrap presents that magically appear under the tree.

Unfortunately, there are children who make it on the nice list, but may not have a single gift tucked under the tree. Luckily, Santa is blessed with elves in green as well as Marines in blues who help collect and deliver toys across the nation.

The Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program recently kicked off the start of toy collections at the Marine Corps Exchange aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Nov. 1.

“Today, we have situations such as the natural disaster (throughout the east coast), and the tragedies in New Orleans a few years back. Those affected families may have difficulty providing for their children,” said Cpl. Ryan A. Moszcienski, a landing support specialist with 2nd Landing Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, who volunteered at the formal collection kick-off event. “Growing up and getting toys always brought me a smile. Bringing smiles and hope back to children and families are one of the biggest things we can do.”

The Toys for Tots program is a way to give back to the children and families, said Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Gorry, the commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East-MCB Camp Lejeune. Onslow County is a community that strongly supports service members.

“Last year, Onslow County pledged over 34,000 toys,” said Gorry. “Children were able to have a better Christmas knowing they had a gift. We want to exceed what we accomplished last year.”

Collected gifts are distributed within the county in which they were collected. The program operates in the local area, but toys are collected throughout the world where Marines are present.

“We do this across the country, as well as in Japan where Marines are stationed,” said Sgt. Maj. Ernest K. Hoopii, the sergeant major of MCI East-MCB Camp Lejeune. “We’ve even done Toys for Tots in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are United States Marines, and we are very passionate about everything we do. We can be fierce. but we’re also compassionate. No better friend and no worst enemy. We defend our nation, and also provide care and support to families.”

Staff Sgt. Vincent T. Sicilia, the local coordinating officer with Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, said no one is forgotten and caring for the less fortunate is important.

“It’s a great feeling as Americans to know we pull together in times of need,” said Sicilia.

Toys for Tots began in 1947, when Maj. Bill Hendricks, a retired Marine reservist, collected 5,000 toys to give to less fortunate children. He believed his efforts could influence and impact children in a positive way. His wife, Diane, developed the idea after finding out there were no programs or agencies collecting gifts for under-privileged children.

In 1948, Marine Corps reserve units across the country conducted Toys for Tots campaigns in their local communities. Marines continue the Hendricks mission to warm the hearts of children.

The Christmas Cheer organization in Jacksonville, N.C., will help with the distribution of the toys. The locations of donation boxes can be found at every Walmart and Walgreens in Onslow County. The Jacksonville Mall will also have donation boxes. Collections started Nov. 1 and will end Dec. 14.

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