Toys for Tots continue to spread christmas cheer throughout pandemic

Justin Diep , Copy Editor

Less fortunate children all over the country and even kids here in Nebraska are still able to enjoy a Christmas thanks to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. According to the Toys for Tots website their goal is to provide “a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens,” by providing toys during Christmas.

In 2019 the Omaha Toys for Toys Campaign provided 81,000 toys to 46,000 children in Omaha, Council Bluffs, Lincoln, Nebraska City, Grand Island, Hasting and their surrounding communities. Gunnery Sgt. Jesus “Gunny” Leza is the coordinator for Toys for Tots Omaha campaign and finds the work very rewarding.

“The fact that we’re able to help them out you know at least give them somewhat of a Christmas is awesome.”

Toys for Tots relies solely on the generous donations from the general public local sponsors to provide toys to thousands of kids in Nebraska. Allstate agent Nemat Azizi is one of those local sponsors.

I want to give back to the community and I feel like nothing better than bringing some positives to kids, especially during these times,” Azizi said. “There are some less unfortunate kids out there that could probably get a lot of joy out of a toy or two.”

Unfortunately, this year due to the pandemic, Toys for Tots experienced massive drops in funding and donations.

“About 95% of our events have been canceled and we just lost thousands and thousands of dollars in donations,” Leza said. “The Husker game that usually brings about 15 to 20,000. The turkey bowl was canceled… that typically brings in about 15 to 20,000.”

Despite the drop in donations, the demand for toys have been higher than ever for the countless families hit hard by the pandemic.

“Everybody’s feeling the crunch,” Leza said. “It’s just ones of those things where it’s tough and then seeing requests blowing up and we don’t have the means to be able to facilitate the request.”

Even with the drop in donations Toys for Tots is still trying their best to fulfill every request they receive but they may have a shortfall this year. They are expected to provide toys to 15,000 kids this Christmas.

“We’re going out into the community and just trying to stay safe but at the same time, raise awareness. I mean, that’s all we really can do,” Leza said.

Toys for Tots was founded in 1947 when the wife of Major Bill Hendricks asked him to find an agency to donate her homemade dolls to. They were not able to find an organization that would take her toys, so they decided to start up their own. In the first year with the assistance of Marine reserve units in Los Angeles they were able to distribute 5000 toys. The following year the Marine Corps adopted the program to make it a nationwide campaign.

People who want to assist the Toys for Tots mission are encouraged to visit to learn how to donate and or volunteer.

“Donate as much as they can donate if they can or, you know, whether it’s money or toys in general,” Leza said. “That would be awesome.”