Successful Toys for Tots drive at Camp Foster nears 10,000 donations
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Thanks to the charity of American Forces Network radio listeners, Marine Staff Sgt. Troy Ruby got to spend Friday night in his own bed — not on the post exchange roof.
Ruby, the AFN morning show disc jockey, had climbed onto the roof at noon Friday, vowing to stay there until a 60-passenger Green Line bus was filled with toys for Okinawa’s annual Toys for Tots drive.
When climbing up, he said, he thought he’d be there at least until Saturday. But an overwhelming response had him down by about 7 p.m. Friday.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I was ready to stay there — I didn’t want to, but I was willing to do it.”
The annual drive had garnered just 4,000 toys after four weeks of collecting. In almost seven hours on the roof, Ruby saw the program net more than 5,000 more — within shouting distance of this year’s goal of 10,000.
Toy drive organizers phoned Ruby on Monday morning “and said they were well over 9,000 and still counting,” he said.
The bus used in the campaign was so full Friday evening that another truck had to be brought in to help carry the presents.
Ruby said it looked as if he’d be sleeping under the stars when the bus first pulled in.
“The bus was only about half full when they finished making their rounds,” he said. But the toy donations at the exchange grew while the bus was out. Many were being stored in the storage-shed displays outside the store.
“The next thing I know, they’re pulling bag after bag out of the storage sheds, but I thought there was no way they had enough to fill the bus,” Ruby said. By the time the sheds were empty, the bus was full, with just enough room for the driver.
By more than doubling the number of donations on the drive’s final weekend, the Marine Corps Reserves-run program will be able to donate more to local organizations, said Lt. Col. Joe Garcia, the III Marine Expeditionary Force Reserve liaison officer, who also was in charge of the Okinawa toy drive.
The Marines plan to donate toys to 22 charities, he said. In the past, only about 30 percent of toys collected went off-base to local communities, Garcia said, compared to about 60 percent this year.
“The program still would have been successful,” he said. “It just helped us make a bigger impact.” The Marines are working with the local communities “for the common goal of helping less fortunate children on Okinawa,” he said.
This also was the first year that the Marines sought donations off base, Garcia said, with donation boxes at local JUSCO and Toys-R-Us stores.
He said all that’s left is to hand the toys out to units and organizations requesting them. “We will be doing deliveries on Christmas Eve,” he said.
Last year, the Marine Corps Reserve had its most successful campaign ever, handing out 15 million toys to 6.6 million children during the group’s 56th drive, according to the organization’s Web site, www.toysfortots.org. The annual collection began in 1947 with a single community toy drive in Los Angeles. Last year, 456 communities were involved in the program.
The Toys for Tots Foundation also contributes to each year’s toy drive. In 2003, it supplemented local collections with $33.5 million in toys and provided 41 tons of promotion and support materials.