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The Toys for Tots program, created and run by the US Marine Corps Reserve, is a charitable initiative which aims to collect new toys – unwrapped – for young American children from less fortunate families to ensure they wake up to gifts on Christmas morning. Toys are industriously collected during October, November and December before being distributed to needy families in time for the big day. The program was developed as a way of bringing a smile to the faces of children in poverty-stricken families, not to mention providing them with hope and positivity so they will grow up to become responsible, well-adjusted, patriotic members of society.

The Toys for Tots program has been going strong for decades now but was first approved “as an official activity” of the Marine Corps by the Secretary of Defence in 1995. Since then the program has spread to all 50 states in the country and takes place in 700 communities. In 2001, despite the upheaval and tragedy caused by September 11, the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Campaign was highly successful and received impressive coverage. Since then the Foundation has gone on to receive a number of accolades and has been ranked in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s “Philanthropy 400″- not to mention being dubbed the best children’s charity in the United States of America.

Throughout its years of service the Toys for Tots Program has donated over 460 million toys to 216 million children from less fortunate families, a remarkable achievement. While the program is carefully organised and implemented by local coordinators in each community, the communities themselves also play a big part in the collection of toys, with local businesses providing warehouse space of sorting and storage of toys and helping out in other ways such as sponsoring toy collecting events and helping to provide media coverage.

The charity is sponsored by some of the biggest toy brands and toy stores in the country such as Lego, Toys R Us, Scholastic and Hasbro and has also received celebrity endorsements and assistance from the likes of singer/songwriter Josh Groban, former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Michelle Obama.

As well as toy donation and distribution, the charity also runs a “Toys for Tots Literacy Program” which involves providing children from poverty-stricken families with access to reading materials which they could otherwise not afford. There is also a Native American program which involves collecting and distributing toys to disadvantaged children from the Navajo and other Native American tribes.