First Lady Delivers ‘Toys for Tots’ Donation
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
STAFFORD, Va., Dec. 16, 2009 First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a van full of toys and a holiday message of giving today to volunteers at the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots distribution center here.
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers toys donated by White House staff to the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots distribution center in Stafford, Va., Dec. 16, 2009. DoD photo by Elaine Wilson
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“That’s what America is all about -- people already sacrificing, stepping up and doing a little bit more,” the first lady said. “We are just so proud and so grateful for what you are doing for this country, for what you are doing for this effort, and we will be a part of [the Toys for Tots program] for as long as I’m in the White House.”
Obama brought with her several bulging sacks of toys donated by the White House staff. The staff has donated more than 500 toys – including clothes, books, markers and board games -- to Toys for Tots so far, a White House official said. About 30 percent have been delivered here to support the Marine Corps Base Quantico campaign, and the others are slated for a distribution center in Washington, D.C.
The first lady lauded the Toys for Tots volunteers, many of them active-duty and reserve Marines, for “stepping up” to help. The program collects new, unwrapped toys each fall and then donates them to needy children throughout the nation during the holidays.
“In a time when you all are already serving and making such a huge sacrifice, all of you, the troops and their families … show America that you can dig even deeper in this time and put your time and effort into making sure that kids all around this country have something wonderful to wake up to on Christmas morning,” Obama said.
The first lady also noted the importance of families in the effort. “We know that the Marine Corps -- you guys -- do a lot of the work, but you couldn’t do what you do if you didn’t have your families supporting you,” she said. “So I want to thank all the spouses who stepped up as well.”
Obama urged Americans to continue to donate through Dec. 22, the program’s deadline, emphasizing the need for older children’s toys.
“We have more than enough toys for younger children. One of the challenges that this program has is really finding toys for the older kids,” she said. But, “There’s still time. I’m going to go back shopping. We still have a couple more days, and we’re going to pick up some more toys for 11- to 14-year-olds.”
Now, “Let’s get to work; we have work to do,” she said as she pitched in to help the volunteers sort toys.
Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. H. Pete Osman, CEO of the Toys for Tots Foundation, accompanied the first lady on her tour of the warehouse.
“Her genuine interest in trying to find out exactly how a local campaign works was very, very apparent,” he said.
The volunteers working alongside the first lady said they were thrilled by her support.
“I don’t think I have words for it,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Christopher Gordon, Marine Corps Base Quantico campaign coordinator. “This is my first year ever doing Toys for Tots as a Marine, and I was not expecting this kind of attention.” He said he hopes her support drums up some more donations.
“I’m almost scared now,” he joked about the anticipated response.
The first lady’s visit offers “a great opportunity to highlight what we do for the community,” Marine Corps Maj. Max Stapp, Quantico campaign program administrator, noted.
Her visit also helps “get the message out: we still need toys,” he said. The Quantico campaign’s goal this year is to donate 150,000 toys to 75,000 children.
The first lady pledged her support for the program earlier this month.
“Each time I visit a base or meet with members of our armed forces and veterans, I’m struck not just by the extraordinary sacrifices they and their families make to serve our country, but by all they do to help others right here at home in their own communities,” she said at a Dec. 2 holiday media preview.
“And the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program is a great example of how servicemen and women are doing even more than just serving our country in uniform,” she continued. “For more than 62 years, Marines have distributed more than 400 million toys to more than 188 million needy children.”