year, the Marine Corps Reserve collects hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth
of donations for its annual Toys
for Tots drive.
in dress blues collect the toys and other donations, which are delivered to
children in their communities around the holiday season. In 2014 and 2015, Toys
for Tots generated more than $550 million in donations.
Tots is a top-rated charity, according to its website, with 97 percent of
donations going toward its mission. Here are seven facts you might not know
about Toys for Tots.
A military officer started it
all. In 1947,
Maj. Bill Hendricks, USMCR, along with a group of fellow Marine Corps
reservists, collected 5,000 toys to give to underprivileged children in Los
Angeles. Hendricks’ wife, Diane, had the idea to start Toys for Tots after
learning no programs in their area helped children in need around the holidays,
according to a Marine Corps news release.
following year, Marine Corps Reserve units across the country began collecting
toys for children in their communities.
Walt Disney designed the famous logo. The famous train logo on every
Toys for Tots collection box was designed by Walt Disney in 1948. Over the
years, Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck have been featured
on Toys for Tots posters.
continues to be a major sponsor for Toys for Tots, along with Toys R Us and
There’s a theme song. In 1956, Oscar-winning
songwriters Sammy Fain and Paul Webster composed a Toys for Tots theme song. Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, and
Vic Damone all later recorded the song.
The first national TV spot was on
Wheel of Fortune. The year 1990 was big for the
Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program. The evening TV gameshow Wheel of Fortune and Pizza Hut conducted
a three-week Toys for Tots promotion that raised close to $3 million.
figure set several milestones that are recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records, according to the Toys for Tots
site, for participation and donation calls made in response to a promotion.
It’s big with some celebs. Toys for Tots has had several
high-profile sponsors over the years, including celebrities like Bob Hope and
Kenny Rogers along with public figures like President Ronald Reagan and first
lady Michelle Obama.
recent years, former professional basketball star Shaquille O’Neal has teamed
with Toys R Us to raise awareness for Toys for Tots. In a promotional video,
O’Neal — who dresses up as “Shaq-A-Claus” — said he knows what toys children will like each
year because he himself is “a big kid.”
The toys sometimes go overseas. While Toys for Tots is designed
to help children in the U.S., there have been a few times that some of the toys
were donated to kids overseas.
first time was in 1959, when a typhoon devastated the city of Nagoya, Japan.
Toys also were sent to Panama twice: once in 1988 after the U.S. invaded the
country and then again in 1989 following a hurricane.
Tots also has sent donations to children in the U.S. following natural
disasters in their cities.
It’s an official mission. In 1995, then-Defense Secretary
William Perry approved Toys for Tots as an official activity of the Marine
Corps — and as an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve.