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President, First Lady Encourage Toys for Tots Donations

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2014 – First Lady Michelle Obama reminded the public that time still remains to donate to Toys for Tots as she introduced her newest “helper,” President Barack Obama, during a toy sorting and packing drive at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
President Barack Obama participates in a Toys for Tots event on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., Dec. 10, 2014. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

President Obama said that not only are service members working to keep the United States safe abroad, but strengthening the country here at home as well.

“They’re volunteering at schools, congregations, our communities,” the president said. “With our combat mission coming to a close in Afghanistan, it means more of our extraordinary military members are going to be home for the holidays, back where they belong.”

The commander in chief also praised transitioning service members, who he said provide the same dedication and sense of service to organizations throughout the country, whether in a professional or volunteer capacity.

In her sixth year with Toys for Tots, Mrs. Obama said she was privileged to brighten the holidays for children across the country and has even created friendly competitions at the White House in which the largest collectors will get a visit from the “first dogs,” Bo and Sunny.

“This year, we’re bringing in about a thousand toys from the White House … and we’re so proud of our team … for participating,” Mrs. Obama said.

Toys for Tots Leadership, History

The first lady also recognized Toys for Tots president and chief executive officer retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Harry Osman, calling him a “tremendous partner” whose leadership makes the drive possible through his leadership. The organization was founded in 1947 by Marine Corps reservist Maj. Bill Hendricks, who, with his colleagues, collected and coordinated about 5,000 toys that year for needy children.

Toys for ‘Older’ Tots

But despite Toys for Tots’ enduring popularity, Mrs. Obama acknowledged that one of the ongoing challenges is finding enough toys for older children.

“It’s always fun to buy the Barbie dolls and the coloring books, but we have to remember that there are teenagers out there, too, [who] need those gifts,” she said. “We try … to make sure that we’re buying cool clothes for kids and electronic products and educational materials for teenagers, as well.”

According to the organization’s web site, the secretary of defense approved Toys for Tots as an official activity of the U.S. Marine Corps and an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve in 1995.

Over its lifespan, the Marine Toys for Tots Program distributed more than 469 million toys to over 216 million less-fortunate children. “That’s a lot of dollhouses, that’s a lot of ninja turtles,” President Obama said.

To donate online, visit the Toys for Tots web page, which also lists drop-off centers for in-person donations.

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDODNews)

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