Once a Toys for Tots recipient himself, retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Simon Hebert has spent the last 13 years as a volunteer for the national program.
“What better person to be able to carry on the program than someone who’s been in that position,” he said.
Hebert began volunteering with Toys for Tots after returning stateside from a deployment to Iraq 13 years ago. He said he was inspired to volunteer by two important people in his life: Long-time mentor retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Linwood Liner, a 50 plus year program volunteer; and his stepfather, retired Master Sgt. Timothy Neal, who also volunteered with the program.
“As long as we have the power, the means, the heart and the ability to make sure that every child out there has a very Merry Christmas, I think that’s what’s most important,” he said. “I honestly can’t think of anything better or more rewarding to do.”
This is the 72nd year for the program, which seeks to ensure that every child receives a gift during the holiday season. Toys for Tots began in 1947 in Los Angeles, California when Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks and his Marines collected and delivered toys to war orphans and less fortunate kids.
“The Commandant of the Marine Corps heard about this effort and directed in 1948 that every Marine Reserve Unit in the country would conduct a Toys for Tots campaign,” said Toys for Tots President and Chief Executive Officer retired Lt. Gen. Henry “Pete” Osman.
Osman said 810 Toys for Tots campaigns are being conducted this year in communities across the country.
“This year we hope to be able to collect and distribute 20 million toys and books for seven million children,” he said. “Through the gift of a new toy or book, you can help bring the joy of Christmas and send a message of hope to America’s less fortunate children.”
Donations are collected and distributed locally, Osman stressed.
“It’s been a great mission and the Maine Corps has really embraced and enjoyed doing,” Osman said.
To find a Toys for Tots drop-off location near you, visit https://www.toysfortots.org/locate/default.aspx?nType=1