Toys for Tots faces challenges delivering Christmas joy


Nichole Sheley, Lamp writer

COVID-19 may be delivering a double-whammy to Toys for Tots in Sangamon and Menard counties.

The charity, which helped 8,000 local children celebrate Christmas by providing them with toys, is expecting to see the number of people in need double this year. On top of that, COVID-19 has hindered the collection process, said Retired Gunnery Sgt. Justin Driscoll of the Marine Corps Reserves.

Driscoll can often be seen collecting money and toys outside area stores in the months leading up to Christmas.

The local effort is part of Toys for Tots that started by Major Bill Hendricks of Marine Corps Reserve in 1947 – although his wife, Diane, was the original inspiration. The first toy was a handmade doll. Hendricks founded the organization in Los Angeles, collecting 5,000 toys before Christmas 1947.

The United States Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948 and expanded it into a nationwide community action project as the U. S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots Program. Walt Disney designed the now-famous Toys for Tots train logo and created the first national Toys for Tots poster.

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is a nonprofit public charity that has supported Toys for Tots since 1991. The foundation was created by the US Marine Corps and provides support in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding with the Commander, LtGen Mathew T. Cooper, who directs the US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.

From 1947 through Christmas 1979, Marines collected and distributed both new and used toys.  Reservists refurbished used toys on drill weekends during October, November, and December.

Locally, the coordinator for Toys for Tots finds businesses willing to allow donation bins. Walmart, Walgreens, Menards, and others are among recent collection sites.

“I then have to secure a warehouse, typically donated for that year’s campaign,” Driscoll said.

Warehouse manager Josh Tyler added: “Then at that point, we would coordinate with volunteers to pick up toys from donation spots as they call us to do so we sort them by age and gender to make it easy to distribute.”

If a business wanted to become a donation area, they can contact Toys for Tots at

“When a business wants to become a sponsor, that is such an amazing thing for us as a not-for-profit organization trying to make sure every child has a Christmas because each year, The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation relies on the generous donations of the American public and our corporate sponsors to deliver gifts to children,” Driscoll said.

Menards North has been a sponsor since the store opened in 2013, said Barry Schillinger, general manager.

“I could not estimate off the top of my head how many toys have been collected throughout the store, but I know it’s been thousands,” he said.

Families and other organizations that help families in need can request help from the foundation. The household must contain at least one child from age birth to 18 years old, and the household must have legal guardianship or custody agreements of the child residing in the home.