To deliver, through a shiny new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to needy youngsters that will motivate them to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens and community leaders.
Toys for Tots began in 1947, when Diane Hendricks, the wife of Major Bill Hendricks of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, made a doll for a needy child to receive for Christmas. When the couple determined that no organization existed to provide the doll to a child, they started a campaign to provide toys to children. After a very successful first year, the Marine Corps adopted the program and expanded it throughout the nation. The Marine Corps decided in the late 1980s that a nonprofit foundation was necessary to help operate Toys for Tots, and the Toys for Tots Foundation was founded in 1991 to provide fundraising services and support for the program. With military cutbacks leaving less money for the program, the foundation is a vehicle to raise money from individuals and corporate donors and conduct promotions with other organizations in compliance with IRS regulations, state laws, and charitable standards.
Nearly 20,000 Marines, Marine Corps League members, veteran Marines, and volunteers are involved in annual toy drives handled by about 400 local Toys for Tots coordinators. The foundation raises funds to provide toys to supplement the collections of local Toys for Tots coordinators and defrays the costs of conducting annual Toys for Tots campaigns. It also provides administrative, advisory, financial, logistic, and promotional support to local coordinators to help them collect and distribute toys. In addition, the foundation offers support that the Marine Corps, as a federal agency, cannot provide, and it promotes the Toys for Tots campaign and mission to the general public through TV and radio public service announcements, media events, and other advertising tools.
After celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Toys for Tots in 1997, the program has continued to expand and reach new milestones. In 1999, the president of the foundation was authorized to approve and manage local Toys for Tots campaigns conducted in communities without a Reserve Unit, and in 2000 Toys for Tots had its most successful year ever with campaigns in 350 communities nationwide. Last year — after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and in the midst of an economic downturn — the organization still managed to coordinate 388 local campaigns and had the second best year in the history of Toys for Tots.
The Toys for Tots Web site not only provides information about the campaign and its history but also offers instructions and guidance to corporate sponsors, local coordinators, and donors. Individuals looking to give toys can use the site's pull-down menu to select their state and access contact information for Toys for Tots campaigns in their area.
The foundation receives funding from more than fifty national corporate sponsors. It also accepts donations through its Web site and operates a range of fundraising projects each year, including a direct mail campaign, special events such as golf tournaments, and a credit card offered by BankOne.