Marines, sailors deliver toys and smiles to tots in Italy
PESCOPAGANO, Italy — Sara paced back and forth, fighting back tears.
As her 5-year-old eyes surveyed the multipurpose room Tuesday morning, she noted Cristian with his toy truck, Alessandro toting his plush-toy elephant, and Emiliana riding her Radio Flyer scooter.
She paced, empty-handed.
Then, finally, someone called her name.
But just before wrapping her arms around her gift of a Barbie-like doll with accessories, Sara spontaneously swooped an arm around Marine Sgt. Fernando Salinas’ neck and ever-so-quickly, pecked him on the cheek.
She was the very last of more than 50 children from the Stelle Dei Angeli (Stars of the Angels) day care and school to collect a gift Tuesday from the Naples-based Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.
“He gave me a gift, that’s why,” the girl with long, curled-at-the tips brown hair and saucer-wide brown eyes said of her impulsive kiss.
The underpriviliged children of the parochial facilities, near the town of Mondragone, ordinarily don’t receive much in the way of toys for Christmas, said Sister Anna Piccolo, one of two nuns from the Caserta-based Catholic Diocese of Sessa Aurunca who runs the school. “They are from families who don’t have a lot of money,” she said.
The school’s 62 children — some of whom weren’t there to receive the gifts — are a multinational lot, hailing from Italy, Nigeria, Poland, Ukraine and Romania, she said.
“I saw the joy in the children,” she said of them receiving the dolls, stuffed animals, pirate sets, teddy bears, tricycles, dump trucks and more. “Children are spontaneous at heart, and you could see they really appreciated this. … For them, this is important. It teaches them the importance of giving.”
This year, the drive, which began the Friday after Thanksgiving, collected thousands of toys donated by Naples-area servicemembers, civilians and families, and Marines and sailors are distributing the collected loot to 28 area charities, schools and churches for underprivileged children, Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Flores said.
Tuesday’s event brought smiles for child and adult alike.
“Did you see those kids faces?” beamed a contented Flores. “It was great.”