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Staff Sgt. Marcus Barhona, right, a Toys for Tots coordinator, helps Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hinkhouse, a volunteer, load a bicycle into the Toys for Tots van Thursday outside the Navy Federal Credit Union on Camp Hansen. The credit union, with the help of the Marine Thrift Shop, donated $1,000 worth of toys. Credit union employees donated an additional $800 worth of toys.
Staff Sgt. Marcus Barhona, right, a Toys for Tots coordinator, helps Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hinkhouse, a volunteer, load a bicycle into the Toys for Tots van Thursday outside the Navy Federal Credit Union on Camp Hansen. The credit union, with the help of the Marine Thrift Shop, donated $1,000 worth of toys. Credit union employees donated an additional $800 worth of toys. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)
Staff Sgt. Marcus Barhona, right, a Toys for Tots coordinator, helps Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hinkhouse, a volunteer, load a bicycle into the Toys for Tots van Thursday outside the Navy Federal Credit Union on Camp Hansen. The credit union, with the help of the Marine Thrift Shop, donated $1,000 worth of toys. Credit union employees donated an additional $800 worth of toys.
Staff Sgt. Marcus Barhona, right, a Toys for Tots coordinator, helps Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hinkhouse, a volunteer, load a bicycle into the Toys for Tots van Thursday outside the Navy Federal Credit Union on Camp Hansen. The credit union, with the help of the Marine Thrift Shop, donated $1,000 worth of toys. Credit union employees donated an additional $800 worth of toys. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)
The Toys for Tots van is stuffed with donations.
The Toys for Tots van is stuffed with donations. (Cindy Fisher / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — With Christmas less than a week away, Toys for Tots continues to engage the public in its quest to fill up the Ho Ho Express bus Saturday.

The annual Marine Corps Reserve program collects new, unwrapped toys donated by the public to children in need. On Okinawa, toys are given to military and local families, as well as local orphanages.

The Ho Ho Express bus will start at Camp Foster’s exchange Saturday morning and travel throughout the day to all Marine Corps base exchanges and the Kadena Air Base exchange, collecting donations, Staff Sgt. Marcus Barahona said Thursday.

"The goal is to fill the bus up," said Barahona, a Marine reservist here from the States to help manage the campaign.

Barahona said the Ho Ho Express is the program’s last big push reach its goal of collecting 10,000 toys — 1,000 more than last year’s goal.

With more than 8,000 toys collected, Barahona said, he’s confident the goal will be met.

He credits the success so far in part to large donations by Navy Federal Credit Union and the Marine Thrift Shop on Thursday, and to volunteers from other services who help man collection points.

"We’ve had an outpouring of other services volunteering," said Reserve coordinator Staff Sgt. Felipe Sanchez.

Marine volunteers have stepped up as well, Barahona said.

"It’s incredibly hard to find people to give up two hours to man a box, but this year we’ve had volunteers who’ve given more than 50 hours," he said.

Toys for Tots is still short on toys for older children, Barahona said. Plenty of toys have been donated for infants and toddlers but not enough for 8- to 18-year-olds, he said.

The Ho Ho Express on Saturday would be a perfect time to "donate — make a difference in a child’s life," Barahoma said.

Toys for Tots will collect donations until Dec. 24.

Troops inspired by season, seasons pastCAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Cpl. Michael Batterton knows how important Toys for Tots can be for a child at Christmas.

"My family was a beneficiary years and years ago, so it’s been a big part of my life," Batterton said.

He saw it as his chance to give back by helping his unit, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, in the Toys for Tots donation competition. The unit that collects the most toys receives a trophy.

And Batterton’s unit is full of the Christmas spirit, he said.

Last week, troops were allowed to buy out of cleaning their rooms by donating to Toys for Tots.

"We’ve done barracks buyouts before, but we’ve never raised that much money in one night — not even for the Marine Corps birthday ball," Batterton said of the $450 donated.

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hinkhouse, the donation coordinator for Marine Air Support Squadron 2, said his unit hasn’t had to do anything special for the competition, simply because everyone is giving.

Units have until Monday to turn in toys, and a winner will be announced after Christmas, coordinators said.

For more information, call Toys for Tots at DSN 645-8073.

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