Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Cory Asato, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Det. Northwest
BREMERTON, Wash. — Toys for Tots-Kitsap 2016 campaign distributed toys and stocking stuffers to local families at the Kitsap Fairgrounds, Dec. 17.
Kitsap Marines, Sailors and volunteers with the organization devoted more than approximately 1,500 hours to collect and reach more than 2,000 children, who received gifts throughout the 2016 campaign effort in the county, with nearly 1,800 receiving gifts on Saturday alone.
“This has been my first year with Toys for Tots and it’s very humbling and amazing to see the support and generosity of individuals and businesses across the country, who give to this great cause with their time and money,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Nate Gilbert, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, native stationed with Marine Corps Security Force Battalion-Bangor.
The Kitsap chapter coordinated 17 collection drives throughout the county while holding six separate distribution events.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to become involved with this great program at my last unit,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Abram Brambila, a Salem, Oregon, native assigned to Marine Corps Security Force Battalion-Bangor. “I finally got involved here with helping in collecting toys and money donations. This gives me a stronger sense of pride as a Marine to directly give back to my community. I joined because I want to help people.”
“The mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.
The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens,” according to the Toys for Tots website.
“Doing [Toys for Tots] while on active duty, seeing their eyes light up and knowing that if it wasn’t for what we do, they wouldn’t have a Christmas, it’s what has brought me back here year after year,” said local Marine Corps veteran Cristian Orozco. “Marines are taught to be selfless and my volunteering career started with and through the Marine Corps. They molded me into the person I am and through them I value giving my time to my community.”
“The objectives of Toys for Tots are to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas; to play an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources – our children; to unite all members of local communities in a common cause for three months each year during the annual toy collection and distribution campaign; and to contribute to better communities in the future,” according to the Toys for Tots website.
“The great thing about Toys for Tots is it gets our Marines involved with the local community,” said Gilbert. “They start asking and looking for other opportunities and more way to volunteer and engage the community.”
“Volunteering begets volunteering, you want to continue to give as you see and feel the value,” explained Gilbert. “It’s changed me and a lot of the Marines and Sailors here.”
Former Secretary of Defense William Perry approved Toys for Tots to be an official activity of the U. S. Marine Corps and an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve in 1995.
“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 community organizations (generally veteran Marine), located in communities without a Marine Reserve Center, to conduct toy collection and distribution campaigns in their communities as part of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program,” according to the Toys for Tots website.