The History of Toys for Tots: Marines Making a Difference

toys for tots

It is amazing how little dreams can add up to something extraordinary. This is especially true when military men and women are involved. Toys for Tots started from a simple wish. When Diane Hendricks wanted to give away a Raggedy Ann doll but could not find a charity to distribute it, she asked her husband for help. As a result, Major Bill Hendricks created Toys for Tots.

Toys for Tots started out strong and has never let up. In1947, Major Bill Hendricks and his fellow Marine Reservists collected over 5,000 toys. This toy drive sparked a movement. By 1948, Toys for Tots was so popular the Marines adopted it and turned it into a national operation. Since Major Bill Hendricks worked as the Public Relations Director for Warner Brothers Studios, he had the access and influence to garner celebrity endorsements for Toys for Tots. In 1948, Walt Disney created the famous Toys for Tots logo. The logo quickly launched Toys for Tots into the national scene. Toys for Tots has many celebrity endorsers including Laura Bush who called it her favorite charity in her memoir.

Toys for Tots evolved over the years. At first, both new and secondhand toys were accepted. Marine Reservists would take time out during Drill to restore used toys. In 1980, this changed for several reasons. Reservists were playing an increasingly important role in the military so no spare moments could be taken away from Drill. People were starting to care about what toys were made of and distributing used toys was a risky legal endeavor. The chemical composition of older toys was increasingly called into question. Marines did not want the children that they were helping to feel inferior to other children. Giving away hand me downs sent the wrong message to destitute children, it told them they were second class kids. The Marines wanted the toys to become an emblem of hope for disadvantaged children. New toys created a positive symbol.

Today, Toys for Tots is a popular and successful program that helps millions of children each year. Over 60 million toys have been given away due to Toys for Tots. In order to qualify for Toys for Tots children have to be disadvantaged and be under the age of 17. Although Toys for Tots focuses on distributing gifts to children up to age 12, some support locations extend the age limit to age 16. In Central Florida, the age limit is 15. Only new toys are allowed, but not all new toys are accepted. Toys for Tots will not give away toys that either look like real weapons or gifts that have food.

Toys for Tots has major influence on communities across the nation. This is especially true in Central Florida. Each year local fundraisers are held to garner gifts and money for disadvantaged children. Thousands of toys are given away to disadvantaged kids in the Central Florida area. Although Toys for Tots benefits kids locally, it is a nationally run campaign with ambitious aspirations. The goal of Toys for Tots is to give a gift to each of the 14 million underprivileged kids in America. Because the Marines are such a powerful and motivated force, they won’t stop until every poor child has a new gift on Christmas morning. Toys for Tots is a shining example of seemingly little dreams making a huge and lasting impact.