Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. The program was founded in 1947 by reservist Major Bill Hendricks.[2]

Toys for Tots
Founded1947 (1947)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
FounderBill Hendricks
Diane Hendricks
TypeCharitable organization
Area served
United States
OwnerMarine Toys for Tots Foundation
Key people
United States Marine Corps Reserve
$246,641,999 (2011)[1]

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity located in Triangle, Virginia, serves to fund, raise funds for, and support the program.


Toys for Tots began as a Los Angeles charitable effort in 1947. Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR, was inspired by his wife Diane when she tried to donate a homemade Raggedy Ann doll to a needy child but couldn't find any organization to do so. At her suggestion, he gathered a group of local Marine reservists, including Lieutenant Colonel John Hampton,[3] who coordinated and collected some 5,000 toys for local children that year from collection bins placed outside Warner Bros. movie theaters.[3] Their efforts were so successful that, in 1948, Toys for Tots was launched as a national campaign. Hendricks used his position as director of Public Relations for Warner Brothers Studio to enlist celebrity support, as well as have Walt Disney Studios design the red toy train logo.[2] A theme song for the program was written in 1956 by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, and would be recorded by Nat King Cole, Jo Stafford, Peggy Lee, among others.[4]

Until 1979, Marine reservists (frequently in their dress blue uniforms) and volunteers would collect and refurbish used toys. In 1980, only new toys were accepted, as reservists were no longer able to dedicate drill hours to refurbish toys, as well as legal concerns, to prevent the accidental giving of recalled items, and the mixed message of giving hand-me-downs as a message of hope.[2]

In 1991, the Secretary of Defense authorized the creation and affiliation with the non-profit charity foundation. In 1995, the Secretary of Defense approved Toys for Tots as an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve.[5]

Noting in 1996 that many communities did not have a Marine reservist presence, the commander of the Marine Forces Reserve authorized Marine Corps League detachments and other local organizations to fill the gaps in toy collection and distribution.[5]

In 2009, the program received support from First Lady Michelle Obama, who placed the first collection box at the White House.[6] In December 2011, she took part in a Toys for Tots activity at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.[7][8]

As of 2016, the Toys for Tots Program and Foundation have collected and distributed more than 512 million toys.[9]


The mission of the program "is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted."

The stated goal is to "deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, and patriotic citizens."

Notable achievements

  • 2003 Outstanding Nonprofit Organization of the Year (DMA NPF)[9]
  • Reader's Digest Best Children's Charity of 2003[9]
  • One of the top 10 charities of 2003 on the Forbes "Gold Star" list.[9]
  • Charity Navigator four star ratings in both 2005 and 2006.

It is noted in their website, that toys in good shape are okay to be donated as well.


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

  1. "Marine Toys for Tots Foundation". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  2. "Origin and Evolution of Toys for Tots". United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 27 March 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  3. Richards, Samp (8 July 2010). "John Hampton, co-founder of Toys for Tots, dies at 103". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 26 July 2010.
  5. "Chronological History of The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program". United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  6. Hadley, Cecilia (14 December 2009). "Giving Starts at the Top: White House announces staff toy drive for Toys for Tots". Marine Corps Times. pp. B3.
  7. "Toys for Tots". Mrs.O. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  8. "First Lady Michelle Obama and Toys for Tots Spread Holiday Cheer". Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  9. "Origin and Evolution of Toys for Tots". Marine Toys For Tots Foundation. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
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