Toys for Tots time to arrive with a vroom at Iwakuni
Clamorous revving in unison of about 200 motorcycle engines cruising the streets of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on Sunday afternoon will mark the official kick-start of the Toys for Tots giving season.
This marks the seventh year the Motorcycle Show and Thunder Run has initiated efforts to collect toys for at least eight Iwakuni area orphanages, said Jay Stovall, Single Marine Program coordinator and a rally organizer.
The rally begins at noon in the parking lot of the Hornet’s Nest, home of the Single Marine Program.
The gathering begins with the show and contest, with category awards including best overall motorcycle, best chrome, best paint job, best sport bike, best cruiser and best “rat bike,” which is big with the Japanese.
“It’s a motorcycle they take and make it look old and antique on purpose,” Stovall said.
In addition, Single Marine Program members will cook barbecue, and “Disk Jockey Bob” and the Filipino band Velocity plan to entertain the crowd.
“A toy will be dropped into the collection box at the Hornet’s Nest by every motorcycle rider participating,” he said. The event also features door prizes, he added.
Stovall said that later in the afternoon he and about 200 other riders will hop on their bikes for a slow drag around the base, including some of the main streets.
“There’s no doubt,” he said, that the ride will be noisy enough to make people aware Toys for Tots has started.
Iwakuni’s Single Marine Program has a successful track record of organizing Toys for Tots efforts starting in 1998.
“The response has been phenomenal these years. This is the seventh year, and it will be phenomenal,” Stovall said. “This base and the Iwakuni Japanese community give so many toys that when we visited at least eight orphanages, we gave every kid two brand new wrapped toys.”
Last year, there were more toys than orphans, he said.
“So we took boxes of them on a Thailand squadron deployment and gave them to kids there,” he said.
Following Sunday’s activities, 25 Marines in dress uniform have volunteered to stand in front of the Marine Corps Exchange in shifts “as a reminder to shoppers that toy donations are needed,” Stovall said. Although the Marines won’t solicit toy donations, there will be a drop box in front of the exchange.
Other drop boxes will be at the Commissary, Hornet’s Nest, Headquarters Building One, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 Headquarters and Combat Service Support Detachment 36 Headquarters.
On Dec. 17 and 18, about 50 Single Marine Program volunteers will visit at least eight, and depending on the volume of toys, maybe more orphanages to hand out the gifts Stovall said.
When Marines visit the orphanages, they go in dress uniforms, with one dressed as Santa Claus. Each gift is labeled by age and gender to make sure it is given to the appropriate child.
“Then, most of all, the Marines love the time they spend with the kids, just being there, playing around,” Stovall said.
“It’s just the holiday spirit.”