Toys for Tots Story - 2001

Marine Toys for Tots Foundation
Friday, 6 July 2001

Washington, DC July 6, 2001 The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation (MTFTF) released the accompanying news article: "Toys for Tots Story 2001". The Foundation developed this article for newspapers and magazines with the hope that it will be used during the October through December 2001 timeframe.

For additional information, visit the Foundation's website at, or contact Major Brian A. Murray, USMC (Ret) at 703-640-9433 or by email: Major Murray is the Director of Operations and Affiliate Relations for the Foundation.


The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is now in its 54th year. Toys for Tots began in 1947, when Major William L. (Bill) Hendricks, USMCR and a handful of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children on Christmas eve. The idea came from Bill's wife. During the fall of 1947, Diane Hendricks handcrafted a Raggedy Ann doll and asked Bill to deliver the doll to an organization that would give it to a needy child at Christmas. When Bill determined that no organization existed, Diane told him he should start one. He did. As a result, Toys for Tots was born.

The 1947 "mini-Toys for Tots" campaign in Los Angeles was so successful that the Marine Corps adopted the concept and, in 1948, expanded it into a nationwide campaign. That year, Marine Corps Reserve units across the nation conducted Toys for Tots campaigns in each community in which a Reserve unit was located. Marines have conducted successful nationwide campaigns at Christmas each year since 1948. The original goal of "bringing the joy of Christmas to America's needy children", has been expanded to encompass social and humanitarian objectives delivering a message of hope, rebuilding self-esteem and mentoring children living in poverty by exposing them to the positive examples set by the U.S. Marines who distribute toys to them each Christmas.

A Marine Reservist on weekends, Bill Hendricks was the Public Relations Director for Warner Brothers Studios. From this position, he was able to arrange considerable visibility and to gain important celebrity support for Toys for Tots over the ensuing years.

In 1948, Walt Disney designed the Toys for Tots logo that continues in use today. Disney also designed the first Toys for Tots poster used to promote the nationwide program. Nat "King" Cole, Peggy Lee and Vic Damone recorded the Toys for Tots song written by Sammy Fain and Paul Webster in 1956. Bob Hope, John Wayne, Doris Day, Lorrie Morgan, Tim Allen and Kenny Rogers are but a few of the long list of celebrities who have given their time and talent to promote Toys for Tots. First Lady Barbara Bush served as the national spokesperson in 1992 and in her autobiography named Toys for Tots as one of her favorite charities.

From 1947 until 1979, Marines collected and distributed new and used toys. On Reserve drill weekends during October, November and December, Reserve Marines refurbished the used toys. Since Christmas 1980, Marines have distributed only new toys. Three factors dictated this change. First, the Secretary of Defense's Total Force Program, introduced in the 1970s, assigned Reserves a greater role in America's defense posture. As a consequence, Reservists had to dedicate every minute of weekend drill time to honing and polishing combat skills. No time was available to refurbish toys. Second, public awareness of the safety and health aspects of toys, which arose during the 1970s, made the distribution of used toys legally inadvisable. Third, distributing "hand me down" toys does not send the message Marines want to send to needy children. The goal is to deliver a message of hope, which will build self-esteem and in turn motivate needy children to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens and community leaders. A shiny new toy at Christmas is an ideal means of accomplishing this goal.

In the late 1980s, the Marine Corps determined that a private charitable organization was needed as an integral part of the overall national Toys for Tots program. Based on this need, the Secretary of Defense, in August 1991, authorized the Marine Corps to recognize and work with a charity committed to supporting Toys for Tots. Based on this approval, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation became an operational organization in September 1991 and has been the fund raising and support organization for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program since that date.

The Foundation was able to satisfy the five needs identified by the Marine Corps. First, the Foundation could provide toys to supplement the collections of local units that had fewer Marines due to military cutbacks of the 80s. Second, the Foundation could arrange and pay for the creation, publication, manufacture and distribution of promotion and support material to Toys for Tots coordinators - something the declining budgets prevented the Marine Corps from doing any longer. Third, the Foundation could enable individual donors to Toys for Tots to take a charitable deduction on their income tax returns. Fourth, the Foundation could enter into contracts with corporations to conduct promotions, which would produce royalties for Toys for Tots. (Needs three and four were two important elements of a charitable endeavor that the Marine Corps, as a federal agency, could not fulfill.) Fifth, the Foundation could ensure that the Toys for Tots program operated in strict compliance with IRS regulations, state laws and regulations and charitable standards.

In 1995, the Secretary of Defense approved Toys for Tots as an official activity of the U.S. Marine Corps and as an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve

In 1996, the Commander, Marine Forces Reserve expanded Toys for Tots to cover all 50 states by authorizing selected Marine Corps League Detachments and selected local civilian organizations (generally groups of veteran Marines) to conduct toy collection and distribution campaigns in communities without a Marine Reserve Unit. Such programs were conducted as part of the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program and in full compliance with established Marine Corps guidelines.

In 1997, the Marine Corps celebrated the 50th anniversary of Toys for Tots. Importantly, the 1997 Toys for Tots campaign was the most successful in the 50-year history of the program. That year, Mr. Joe Burden, a veteran Marine, retired District of Columbia Police Officer, composer, musician and bandleader, composed a special Toys for Tots song for the 50th anniversary. That same year, another veteran Marine, Mr. Conrad Neiman, the Director of The Charleston Mint, designed the first of five Toys for Tots Christmas Ornaments. The first ornament was in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the program.

In 1998, Toys for Tots began its second half-century with the most successful toy collection and distribution campaign ever. The 1998 campaign surpassed all records set in 1997 with the distribution of 11.2 million toys to 4.8 million needy children. Toy collection and distribution campaigns were conducted in 314 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

In 1999, the Commander Marine Forces Reserve delegated the authority to the President, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to approve and manage local Toys for Tots campaigns conducted in communities without a Marine Reserve Unit.

The 2000 Toys for Tots Campaign was the most successful in the 53-year history of Toys for Tots. Local campaigns were conducted in 350 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This was the most extensive coverage ever. Local coordinators distributed 15.8 million toys to 6.3 million needy youngsters (2 million more toys and 400,000 more children that the best previous campaign). The Honorable John Glenn, veteran Marine, astronaut, and former U.S. Senator was one of the two Toys for Tots spokespersons in 2000. Mrs. Heather French Henry, Miss America 2000 and the daughter of a veteran Marine, was the other year 2000 Toys for Tots spokesperson.

From 1947 through 2000, Marines distributed in excess of 272,000,000 toys to more than 133,000,000 needy children throughout the United States. Clearly, Marines have earned the right to be labeled the unchallenged leaders in looking after needy children at Christmas.

In the 1980s, local Toys for Tots campaigns were conducted in 180 communities covering 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. By 2000, the coverage had increased to 350 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The signature symbols of Toys for Tots are: a U.S. Marine in a Dress Blue uniform, a Raggedy Ann doll and the three car train Toys for Tots logo designed by Walt Disney in 1948.

Today, Toys for Tots is the Marine Corps' premier community action program and one of the nation's flagship Christmas charitable causes. Toys for Tots is the only charitable endeavor within the Department of Defense which reaches outside the military establishment to give something back to the communities from which our nation draws the young men and women who wear the uniforms of the armed services of the United States.

Toys for Tots has enjoyed over a half century of success because of the support of millions of caring Americans, local communities, and corporate America plus the dedication and hard work of thousands of U.S. Marines. Toys for Tots is a program which brings all elements of a community together in a common cause for three months each year. It is a program dedicated to helping in the development of our nations most valuable natural resource our children. Toys for Tots delivers a message of hope to children who have little reason to have hope for the future. The shiny new toy at Christmas lets these youngsters know that someone cares. The goal is to motivate economically disadvantaged children to grow into responsible, productive and patriotic citizens and community leaders. The good news is that Marines have been accomplishing this goal for 53 years.


The Commandant of the Marine Corps assigns the Commander, Marine Forces Reserve the dual task of Director, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.

The Toys for Tots team consists of the Marine Forces Reserve staff, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, The Marine Corps League, 175 Marine Reserve Units and approximately 175 Marine Corps League detachments or local organizations of veteran Marines.

Marine Forces Reserve consists of the 4th Marine Division, the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, the 4th Force Service Support Group (FSSG), Marine Corps Reserve Support Command (MCRSC) and 188 Marine Reserve Centers. The headquarters of Marine Forces Reserve and of the division, wing and FSSG are located in New Orleans, Louisiana. MCRSC is located in Kansas City, Missouri. The 188 Marine Reserve Centers are located in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Marine Forces Reserve consists of approximately 34,000 Reservist Marines and 4,000 Regular Marines.

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) not for profit public charity, is the fund raising and support organization for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. Funds to defray the cost of conducting annual campaigns, to purchase and distribute promotional and support materials, and to purchase toys to supplement the collections of local campaigns are provided by the Foundation. The Foundation provides administrative, advisory, financial, logistic and promotional support to Reserve units along with other support to the program that the Marine Corps, as a federal agency, cannot provide. The Foundation conducts an annual public relations campaign to gain visibility for Toys for Tots. The Foundation also conducts public education and information programs about Toys for Tots designed to call the general public to action in support of Toys for Tots. The Foundation has been the fund raising and support organization for Toys for Tots since Christmas 1991. Over the past ten years, the Foundation has provided over 29 million toys valued at nearly $140 million along with over $1,300,000 worth of promotional and support materials. During the period 1991 2000, the Foundation has arranged for 170 corporations to be national corporate sponsors of Toys for Tots.

The Marine Corps League (MCL) is a veteran's organization of men and women who have served in the U.S. Marine Corps. There are 775 MCL Detachments located throughout the nation. The MCL has 43,000 members. A MCL Detachment typically has about 55 members.

Annual Toys for Tots Campaigns: Local Toys for Tots Coordinators collect new, unwrapped toys from October 1st through December 22nd and distribute these toys to the needy children of their community on December 23 and 24 with the assistance of local social welfare agencies, church groups and civic groups.

For more information, or to contact Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, see their website at:

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