The History of Toys For Tots

Toys for Tots began in 1947 as the brain child of Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks. Actually, it was his wife, Diane, who was the real inspiration. She had crafted a few handcrafted dolls and asked Bill to deliver them to an agency that supports children in need.

When Bill reported back to his wife he could not find such an organization, she instructed him to “start one!”. Maj Hendricks and the Marines in his reserve unit in LA collected and distributed 5,000 toys in 1947.

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Marine Toys for Tots. An IRS recognized 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity, it serves as the authorized fundraising and support organization for the Toys for Tots Program.  The Foundation provides the leadership, funding, and support needed for successful annual toy collection and distribution campaigns.  The Foundation staff is headquartered in the Cooper Center located just outside the Main Gate of Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia, about 35 miles south of Washington, DC.

Local campaigns are conducted annually in over 800 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Local toy collection campaigns begin in October and last until mid to late December.  Toy distribution also takes place mid to late December.  Members of the community drop new, unwrapped toys in collection boxes positioned in local businesses.  Coordinators pick up these toys and store them in central warehouses where the toys are sorted by age and gender.  At Christmas, Coordinators, with the assistance of local social welfare agencies, church groups, and other local community agencies, distribute the toys to the less fortunate children of the community.  Over the years, Marines have established close working relationships with social welfare agencies, churches and other local community agencies which are well qualified to identify the needy children in the community and play important roles in the distribution of the toys.

While Toys for Tots Coordinators organize, coordinate and manage the campaign, the ultimate success depends on the support of the local community and the generosity of the people who donate toys.

Local business leaders play key roles.  They allow Coordinators to locate drop-off/collection boxes in their stores; provide free warehouse space for storing and sorting toys during October, November and December; provide vehicles to collect toys from drop-off sites; sponsor toy raising events; and help Coordinators arrange media exposure for Toys for Tots in the local community.

National corporations support Toys for Tots by establishing affiliations with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.  These corporations make donations to the Foundation or conduct cause marketing initiatives from which they share royalties with the Foundation.  In almost every instance, the marketing initiatives of these corporations give significant added visibility and name recognition to Toys for Tots.  Such visibility enhances the campaign at the national and local levels.  The funds emanating from these affiliations enable the Foundation to purchase toys to supplement local collections; purchase promotion and support materials and defray the costs of annual Toys for Tots Campaigns.

Presently, the Marine Toys for Tots Program distributes an average of 18 million toys to 7 million less fortunate children annually.