What is Toys for Tots?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2019
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Toys for Tots was founded in 1947 by Colonel William Hendricks of the United States Marine Corps Reserve. The official story is that the colonel’s wife made a child’s doll and gave it to her husband to pass on to an organization collecting toys for needy children. When Hendricks could find no such organization in Los Angeles, he started his own, collecting toys for over 5,000 families in the first year with the help of other reservists. The Marine Corps was inspired by the program and made it nationwide in 1948.

The program’s stated goal is to “bring the joy of Christmas to America’s needy children.” Since its inception, Toys for Tots has met this goal with radical success, supported by the Walt Disney Company and a variety of celebrities. Many organizations across America support the toy drives around Christmas, with collection points in department stores, supermarkets, libraries, and schools. Motorcycle clubs are often active in these collections, providing an example of the widely disparate groups that support the mission.


Until 1980, Toys for Tots accepted both new and used toys, refurbishing the used toys and donating them to grateful families. Rising concerns about the safety of distributing used toys, especially those made prior to the 1970s that may contain lead and other toxic substances, combined with an increasing demand on the Marine Corps, caused the organization to request new toys only. Toys for Tots also felt that distributing hand-me-down toys was not encouraging or morale-building and that children would benefit more from new toys.

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation was founded in 1991 to support the Corps in their goals. It supplements the collections made by Marines, distributes promotional and support materials, provides a point for deductible monetary donations, works with corporations to promote toy collection, and ensures that the group is in full compliance with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standards. Donors can drop off toys at a variety of points around the world, and they can also donate money, time, or used vehicles to the foundation. Toys can be requested by agencies, teachers, or individuals who see children in need. Marines passing out toys often attend in full dress uniform.


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Post 5

I think some people are signing up for Toys for Tots to be greedy. I know some people who could afford Christmas and this is the second Christmas in a row they won't buy their son toys. I think it's messed up! She said she won't sign up if they are used toys. How ungrateful.

Post 4

I think it is a shame that they don't accept second hand toys any more. I can understand the reasons, particularly as some people will donate any old thing they want to get rid of.

Also, to be fair, people might be blinded by their love of an old toy they or their children adored once, but is now not as pretty as it used to be.

But, there are plenty of toys out there that get played with once and then get thrown out.

If you have any decent toys like that, consider giving them to a second hand toy shop... at least some child might be able to get them cheap, if not free.

Post 3

@anon125950 - I think Toys for Tots works along with local organizations to figure out who needs the toys. That way they can make sure they are really going to people in need. It would be really hard for them to figure out who really needed toys otherwise, since they are catering to such an enormous group of people.

If you go on their website, they list the local groups they work with for each area. I think you'd need to get in contact with those groups in order to put in a request for toys. If all else fails, just send a general inquiry and I'm sure they'd let you know how to go about it.

Post 1

I have been looking for ways to apply for the toys for tots program and can't find any way to apply. can someone please help.

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