Toys for Tots is full-steam ahead

With a train full of toys, volunteers for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program spent yesterday in the sunshine collecting new, unwrapped toys for needy children in the second to last week for its holiday drive.

Next weekend will be the last time residents interested in making a donation can do so before Christmas.

The two volunteers of the Kaua‘i Marine Corps League, Chairman Frank Kleckner and Sgt. Major Burt White, smiled and chatted with shoppers entering the Lihu‘e Wal-Mart, taking monetary donations and the latest in the season’s must-haves in front of the entrance.

The Kaua‘i Marine Corps league has been charged with the task of collecting toys for children in need for the past seven years, something the Pacific Range Missile Facility initially handled.

Part of the objective of Toys for Tots is to help needy children experience the joy of Christmas, something that only can be done with the help of locals, Kleckner said.

“None of this could be done without the generous people of Kaua‘i,” Kleckner said. “Kaua‘i doesn’t rely on other counties to help it. They give — and they do it from the heart.”

In addition to being grateful to local residents, Kleckner said the Kaua‘i Fire Department and Bank of Hawai‘i, which both helped collect donations, were integral to the program.

Adding a new spin to the annual toy drive, which gathers gifts from donors in October, November and December, the overseeing Salvation Army is broadening its scope this year by gathering gift cards for teenagers, an age group that hasn’t been targeted in the past.

Money that was donated last year will be spent on $25 gift cards so teenagers who haven’t received gifts in the past can get more age-appropriate presents, such as CD players and radios, Kleckner said.

Of the gift cards, $3,000-worth were purchased from Wal-Mart, $2,000-worth were purchased from Kmart and $1,000-worth were purchased from Borders. Money collected this year in donations will go toward gifts for teenagers next year, Kleckner said.

Collected toys will be sent to O‘ahu, and then the Salvation Army will distribute the toys to agencies throughout the state, Kleckner said.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday at Wal-Mart, representatives from several businesses, including Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware, Kmart, and King Auto Center will present several thousand dollars in donations to the effort.

Though this is the season where the Toys for Tots campaign is front and center, coordinators arrange several other activities to further the program throughout the year, including golf tournaments, foot races and bicycle races.

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