Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots (Facebook)

(Tribune News Service) — The U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program has commenced in Cañon City for the 2023 Christmas season. Starting in 1947, the program has experienced nationwide success and annually brings more than 18,600,000 toys to underprivileged children.

Retired Marine Carl Clink, who has overseen the Fremont County Toys for Tots program for more than 10 years, has decided to hand the reins of the program over to worthy successor and friend, Joel Dudley.

“It’s time to pass the hat,” Clink said.

“And Joel doesn’t do anything but work anyways,” he added with a smile.

Dudley, another retired Marine, met Clink when he joined the Marine Corps League about five years ago and the two became fast friends. Since that time, Dudley has volunteered his time to assist with the Toys for Tots program and has learned many of the ins and outs of the program from Clink.

“I actually joined the Marine Corps League to help with Toys for Tots ... that was ... a big driver for me,” Dudley said.

Currently, there are 128 children throughout Fremont County signed up to partake in the program and, as the season wears on, organizers are tasked with verifying that they have the correct number of age-appropriate gifts for each child.

There is usually a particular need for baby and infant items as that age group tends to get overlooked. However, the program accepts new, unwrapped toys for children of all ages and reaches into the teenage years. In addition to the regular donation receptacles located throughout town, there will be ammunition boxes to donate any loose or spare change.

“Whatever people want to give [is appreciated],” Clink said.

In addition or instead of physical toys, Fremont County residents are also encouraged to donate any monetary amount they desire to the Toys for Tots program. Donated funds are used to fill any gaps that remain before the big holiday distribution in mid-December.

“If we’re short girls [gifts] aged 7-10, we’ll know to go buy [those gifts],” Clink said.

Checks can be made to Toys for Tots and mailed to Dudley’s residence at 1631 Locust St., Cañon City, CO or those interested can go online to donate.

The gift distribution will take place at the gymnasium in the Abbey — a partnership that Clink said has been vital to the program’s long-term success.

“Without them [the Abbey] this program would be in a world of hurt,” Clink said. “Their generosity of letting us utilize their facilities is beyond great.”

Toys for Tots volunteers

Toys for Tots volunteers (Facebook)

Although community partnerships are strong for the program, Dudley and Clink could always use volunteers. For information on volunteering with Toys for Tots, call Catalyst Church in Cañon City at 719-334-0620 and ask for Pastor Ryan.

Donation receptacles, which are attended by members of the United States Marine Corps, are currently available throughout the community at the following locations until Dec. 14:

• Walmart, 3105 U.S. 50

• City Market, 1703 Fremont Dr.

• Tractor Supply Company, 1919 E. Main St.

• Walgreens, 1609 Fremont Dr.

“Every child deserves a little Christmas,” Dudley said, echoing the program’s motto. “Christmas was always a super happy time in my family even though we didn’t have much. The fact that you see the smile on parent’s faces [as well as their children’s] — that’s really it.”

(c)2023 Daily Record, Canon City, Colo

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