Semper Fidelis or Semper Fi is the motto of the United States Marine Corps, meaning ever faithful. And, what more faithful and compassionate mission can there be than to help children?
Toys for Tots (TFT), a program of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve, was founded in 1947 by Major Bill Hendricks, in Los Angeles. In the following years, the program expanded into a nationwide community action project.
One local hero helping to make Christmas merrier for children in six Ohio counties is Staff Sargeant Daniel G. Stoll II, 31, stationed at Weapons Company 124 in Perrysburg, Ohio. Stoll, a Marine for 13 years and the coordinator of our area’s TFT for three years, explains that “the program has been active in this area over the past 50 years.”
Stoll coordinates “six counties in Northwest Ohio and that gets us to about 10,000 kids.” They average four to five gifts per child “depending on the age group and TFT provides gift items for anybody between 3 and 9 years old.” He said the most difficult children to buy for are the “ages under 3 and teenagers.”
The Salvation Army
One of the TFT collaborators in the distribution of toys in Lucas, Ottawa, Wood, Henry and Fulton counties is the Salvation Army (SA). The SA coordinator, Major Scott Kelly, is located at 620 N. Erie St., Toledo. Major Kelly, with the SA for 30 years and helping TFT for two years, said TFT “don’t necessarily take applications, because the Marines don’t have a system set up, that’s why they partner with us.” Major Kelly said that last year the SA helped 3,419 families and distributed 44,000 toys.”
Maureen (Mo) Saponari, Salvation Army’s Director of Social Services in Ottawa County, in Port Clinton, said the SA “ focuses on giving toys worth under $25.” She finds the basic toys are still popular as little girls still love dolls and boys love matchbox cars. But the organization does try “to focus on hands-on toys and games.”
Though TOYS is the keyword in TFT, Staff Sgt. Stoll emphasized the need for monetary donations because “a lot of people see TFT and see a box in Toys “R” Us and say, ‘I’m going to donate’ and what they see in their mind is a 5, 6, 7, or 8-year-old little boy or girl – so they buy a car or Barbie doll.” By donating money in lieu of toys, TFT, a non-profit organization, is able “to go to local businesses and spend the money on the necessary items we need to fill the gaps. Sometimes we have so much for the middle age group and so little for the other ones.” Toy bins are located at many businesses throughout Northwest Ohio.