Editor’s note: the Toys for Tots big toy roundup previously scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7, has been postponed one week to Dec. 14, due to weather. Read on for more information.
OAKHURST – It may be cold outside, but the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has thousands of ways to warm the hearts of local children of all ages.
Organizers are hard at work preparing to distribute gifts to kids who otherwise might not have much – or anything – under the tree.
Area Toys for Tots coordinator Michael Perreira wants to make sure everyone knows about the current drive to bring new, unwrapped toys to children in the mountain area just in time for Christmas.
Last year’s drive was a big success, and Mike and wife Brenda Perreira are determined that this year will be a great one as well.
“We took care of 1,450 kids last year and passed out about 4,600 toys valued at around $70,000,” the pseudo-Santa noted from the secret “North Pole” site in Oakhurst where toys are organized. “We take care of only children in our mountain area; all the toys we collect and money we collect to buy toys, 100% of that is concentrated on Eastern Madera County.”
As they do each year around this time, the Marine Corps Reserve and the Marine Corps League are asking the public for help to “send the needy children of our community a message of hope this Christmas, through the gift of a new, unwrapped toy.”
Since 1947, Marines have been making Christmas wishes come true for children in need, with the help of generous citizens, schools, churches and business leaders. Organizers rely locally for assistance in providing toy collection sites and in the distribution of toys.
“We have 90 boxes at 75 locations, at churches, schools, different agencies and businesses,” said Perreira, “The collection boxes have been out since November 23 and we will collect them all on December 13.”
They ask that toys have a value of between $10 – $20, and the group wants to give only new – not used – toys, unwrapped so the corps of elves at the North Pole can see what they’re putting together.
So, how does the toy distribution system work?
“We get a list of needy kids from schools and churches and county agencies,” explained Perreira.
“We make up a separate bag for each child, with around $40 worth of toys. Then we take the bags back to the school or the church and they get them to the parents, grandparents, or guardian, so those caretakers can wrap them and give them to the kids themselves on Christmas morning.”
Toys for Tots has two major events coming up. The first is at the Queen’s Inn/Idle Hour Winery. The popular spot is holding a toy collection and fundraiser on Friday, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m.
Admission to the evening of fine wine tasting is $10 for five wines or $15 for eight wines. Alternatively – and here’s where the toys come in – entrance and tasting can be had with the presentation of a toy valued at least $15 to go toward Toys for Tots. Either way, 100% of proceeds from the evening go to the charity, according to Perreira. For more information call 559-683-4354
“Also on Saturday, Dec. 14, we are going to have our major toy collection day – we call it the Toy Roundup – at the Old Mill Site shopping center (also known as Vons), open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Perreira continued.
The big roundup was previously scheduled for Dec. 7 and had to be postponed due to snowy weather.
“The Yosemite High School cheerleaders will have a bake sale going on and 100% of their gross proceeds goes to Toys for Tots also.”
If there’s one thing the Toys for Toys people don’t seem to receive enough of, Perreira said, it would be toys for the older kids.
“People don’t think of the older kids, and we take care of them from infant up through high school age.”
For the many volunteers who make Toys for Toys possible year after year, organizers say the drive embodies “the true spirit of Christmas. The gift of a shiny new toy – something that most children take for granted – means to a needy child that someone cares, that he or she has not been forgotten, that Christmas has not passed them by.”
If you wish to make a monetary donation or have any questions, readers are encouraged to contact Toys for Tots coordinators Mike or Brenda Perreira at (559) 658-6311.
For a list of toy drop locations or more information, visit the Eastern Madera County Toys for Tots page on the national website.