We all know, and are grateful for, the toughness of our U.S. Marines. But since the late 1940s, millions of American children are glad they have a softer side, too. A member of the Marine Corps Reserve, Major William L. Hendricks of California, learned there was no place to donate toys to kids when his wife wanted to give away a handmade doll. He started an organization locally, and gave away 5,000 toys that first Christmas. The Marine Corps Reserve adopted the program and took it nationally the following year (1948).
For many years, people could donate new or used toys. Marines would fix the old ones before they were given away. The program was so successful that not enough time was available for refurbishing used toys, and only new ones have been accepted since 1980. A separate organization, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, now exists to provide fundraising and operational support for the program.
Toys for Tots has often been a favorite project of America’s First Ladies. Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Michelle Obama have made the charity one of their priorities. Between their efforts and that of the Marine Reserve, they’ve obviously been hugely successful: the charity has collected and delivered more than 500 million toys.