On this date in 1947, the Marine Corps Reserves started the Toys For Tots program.
Toys for tots Began in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, USCR and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. The idea came form Bill’s wife, Diane.
In the fall of 1947, Diane crafted a homemade doll and asked Bill to deliver the doll to an organization, which would give it to a needy child at Christmas.
When Bill determined that no agency existed, Diane told Bill that he should start one.
The 1947 pilot project was so successful that the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948 and 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 Marine Reserve Center was located.
Marines have conducted successful nationwide campaigns at Christmas each year since 1948.
The initial objective that remains the hallmark of the program today is to “bring the joy of Christmas to America’s needy children”.
Bill Hendricks, a Marine Reservist on weekends, was in civilian life, the Director of Public Relations for Warner Brothers Studio.
This enabled him to convince a vast array of celebrities to support Toys for Tots. In 1948, Walt Disney designed the Toys for Tots logo, which we 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 theme composed by Sammy Fain and Paul Webster in 1956.
Bob Hope, John Wayne, Doris Day, Lorrie Morgan, Tim Allen, Kenny Rogers and Billy Ray Cyrus are but a few of the long list of celebrities who have given their time and talent to promote Toys for Tots.
First Lady Nancy Reagan served as the national Spokesperson in 1983.
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 through 1979, Marines collected and distributed new and used toys.
On Reserve drill weekends during October, November and December, Reserve Marines refurbished the used toys.
From Christmas 1980 through the present, Marines have collected and distributed only new toys.
Three factors dictated this change.
First, the Secretary of Defense’s Total Force Program, introduced in the 1970’s, 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 health and safety aspects of toys that developed during the ‘70s made 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 assist in building self-esteem and, in turn, motivate less fortunate children to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens and community leaders.
A shiny new toy is the best means of accomplishing this goal.