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Fairgrounds fills with toys, children and Marines
The President’s Hall at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds on Saturday was full of children, full of Marines and full of joy.
The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program opened the doors at 9 a.m. and stayed through the afternoon, handing out toys to needy children in Kitsap County.
Bill Cundiff, a life member of the Marine Corps League, stood in line that morning to shake the hand of each child and wish them a merry Christmas.
When Cundiff reached his hand out toward one young boy the child refused the hand, instead rising up and offering a salute.
The boy looked right at Cundiff and said: “My grandpa was a Marine, and I’m gonna be a Marine.”
Toys for Tots started in the 1940s after Maj. Bill Hendricks and his Los Angeles Marine Corps Reserve unit collected and disturbed 5,000 toys to needy children.
The program has grown substantially since it was officially adopted by the Marine Corps in 1948. Toys for Tots has collected and distributed more than 418,000,000 toys since then.
“All the kids had smiles on their faces,” said Sgt. Nick Weidner of the Marine Security Force Battalion. “You just see their faces light up when they see they’re getting a bike.”
Marines and sailors in Kitsap County volunteered hundreds of hours leading up to Saturday’s event, talking to local businesses, collecting and preparing toys.
“As long as we’re all breathing, it’s going to continue,” said Sam Martin, the previous coordinator for more than a decade.
Dozens of Kitsap businesses contributed to the program’s success, by putting out collection bins, providing storage space and encouraging employees and customers to donate.
The Marine Corps League, Marine Corps Wives, Boy Scout troop 1506 and others stood alongside active duty and reserve personnel, helping the program run smoothly.
JoAnn Gavin, the Kitsap County Toys for Tots coordinator, and many of the volunteers stressed the importance of the community’s contribution, saying the program couldn’t be so successful without the support of the community.