Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

December 21, 2022
Delivering Smiles Every Christmas

Toys for Tots preparation is a year round undertaking 

Dean Adams has held various law enforcement jobs over the past 30 years, but Adams also volunteers to run the Tooele County Toys for Tots program providing children in need with Christmas presents each year.

The Toys for Tots program officially began in 1947. It was created by Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks and his wife, Diane, after she asked her husband to deliver a few handcrafted dolls to an agency that supports children in need, according toysfortots.com.

Bill wasn’t able to find an organization to donate the dolls to, so his wife instructed him to start his own.

That year, Bill and the Marines in his reserve unit in Los Angeles, collected and distributed 5,000 toys.

The first year was so successful, the campaign was transformed into a national community action program in 1948.

During the first few years of the campaign, Bill had help from Walt Disney who designed the first Toys for Tots poster which included a miniature three-car train that was subsequently adopted as the Toys for Tots logo. Many other celebrities at the time also helped support the program.

Now, the program is called the “Marine Toys for Tots Foundation” and is a government recognized nonprofit agency.

The foundation raises funds and purchases toys for children in need, distributing an average of 18 million toys to 7 million children each year.

In Tooele County alone, over 3,000 children ages zero to 17 were given over 11,000 toys and books in 2021.

The program, which officially came to Tooele over 15 years ago, allows parents to fill out an application for assistance. Then, they are able to visit the Toys for Tots warehouse in December and they are given toys, books, and a family game for each child, along with stocking stuffers.

The program serves all of Tooele County, as well as West Wendover.

Toy donations come from members of the community and from the Toys for Tots Foundation. They are also purchased from monetary donations from businesses and individuals.

Adams has been the program coordinator for three years, but he has been with the program for five years. He oversees a 20-person volunteer team.

“I spent a little over five years in the Marine Corps and I was honorably discharged as a sergeant in 1991,” Adams said. “I met the coordinator of Toys for Tots later at the Marine Corps League in Tooele County … He invited those who wanted to participate in the program to come out and be with him. [I wanted to participate, because] I raised my two sons myself and I got into coaching heavily … There were a few families who couldn’t afford to put them in sports, so I would use some of my own money to help them play. With doing that, I saw a greater need, so that’s why I decided to become involved with the Toys for Tots program. I knew it was another way I could help.”

Although collection boxes are set up in October in various stores and businesses in the county, volunteers work all year to collect toy and monetary donations.

“Our fundraising does not stop at all,” Adams said. “We hit Lakepoint and Stansbury Days. We also hit the Country Fan Fest. We use some of the smaller items that we receive to give to kids during those events, like little bobble heads and coloring books. We try to really make sure people understand during the year that we are gearing up for Christmas.”

Toy donations come in all year and volunteers work to put donations on shelves and organize them by ages and gender.

Also throughout the year, the Toys for Tots program helps families who have experienced a catastrophe.

“There are individuals out there whose house has burnt down and if we are contacted with the ages and genders of the children, I will go into the warehouse and pull toys and be able to help the family,” Adams said.

As Christmas time approaches, volunteers become even more busy.

“We go through and review applications,” Adams said. “We fill orders, so people can come and pick up their orders … We process late applications and the New Life Church helps assist us with that after I fill up the trailer with age specific toys and they assist with distribution.

This month, Adams and many of his team members took a week off of their full time jobs to help with distribution.

 “We give up a lot of our own personal time,” Adams said. “We had to make sure the orders were filled. We were kind of spread thin.”

After Christmas time, some of the leftover toys are taken to Primary Children’s Hospital or Shriners Hospital.

Adams enjoys volunteering with the program.

“My enjoyment comes from knowing kids out there are going to receive something for Christmas,” he said.

Community members make the program a success.

“The community as a whole, even the businesses who give large cash donations, give donations and those are appreciated … It is unreal to me how fortunate we are as a campaign and how giving the citizens are in Tooele County. It is very much appreciated and we can’t say that enough.”

To donate to the Toys for Tots program, please visit Stockton-ut.toysfortots.org.

“Times are hard for everyone, so if someone is able to spend a couple of dollars, even a small ball or a book, everything purchased helps,” Adams said.

Adams also shares his thanks for all the Toys for Tots volunteers.

 

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