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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Marine Col. Adrienne Fraser Darling knows firsthand the importance of the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program.

“My house burned down a week after Christmas three years ago,” Fraser Darling, commander of camps Lester and Foster and a mother of six, said Friday at the launch of this year’s Toys for Tots drive on Okinawa.

“We lost everything. All I had was the uniform on my back,” she said. “Then unexpectedly, we got two boxes of toys from Toys for Tots. They saved Christmas for my kids.”

Last year, Toys for Tots on Okinawa collected almost 10,000 new toys for off-base charities and needy children of military families.

“This year we’re shooting for 15,000 toys,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jake Schanz, an organizer of Friday’s kickoff event at the Camp Foster Army and Air Force Exchange Service store. “This is the second year we’re setting up collection points in the local community. We’ll have collection boxes at the Jusco stores in Chatan and Awase.”

Last year, 6,000 toys were distributed to local schools for the handicapped, orphanages and children’s hospitals, Schanz said. Another 3,000 went to needy children in military families.

“We also sent some 500 toys to victims of the floods in the Philippines and the tsunami in South Asia,” Schanz said.

Toys for Tots began in 1947 when a group of Marine reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. The Marine Corps adopted the charitable program the next year.

Schanz said the Marines will work with the Japan Self-Defense Force on Okinawa to coordinate donations and distribution outside the U.S. bases.

Needy children of military families will be identified by the sergeants major of Marine units on Okinawa, Schanz said. Various island charities will identify the needy Okinawa children.

Donation collection boxes will be set up at all Okinawa AAFES stores, Jusco stores in Chatan and Awase, and at various Marine Corps Community Services special events now through Dec. 22. All donated toys must be new and unwrapped.

“Without this program, thousands of poor children would have nothing to look forward to on Christmas morning,” said Fraser Darling. “Toys for Tots makes a difference in the lives of so many people.”


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