CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Toys for Tots kicked off at 22News on Monday. Each year, our lobby is filled with toy donations from YOU, our viewers, and are distributed to local children in need. This year, there is an increased demand for toy donations in our area.
United States Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots
Staff Sgt. Michael Vopal from Marine Air Support Squadron 6 at Westover Air Reserve Base is this year’s Toys for Tots coordinator. He told 22News it’s a Marine Corps Reserve tradition that dates back to the 1940s.
“Toys for Tots unofficially started in 1947, with one Marine major over in the LA area,” Vopal explained. “His wife made a toy and was like ‘I want to give this to children.’ There was no current foundation that did anything like that. So he and his wife took it upon themselves and had local Marines help out over 5,000 children in the LA area. The very next year, the commandant of the Marine Corps was like ‘You know what? It’s such a great program, let’s make it national.’ So in 1948, it officially became a Marine Corps Reserve function.”
All the toy donations brought to our WWLP-22News lobby stay right here in western Massachusetts.
“Last year we were able to assist 21,000 families. This year that number has grown to over 73,000,” Vopal said. “So that’s triple plus some. It’s a lot more.”
Where do my Toys for Tots donations go?
Western Massachusetts families and organizations benefit from your Toys for Tots donations. One of those organizations is the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children in Holyoke.
“Our families are dealing with poverty, issues of domestic and community violence, issues of mental health,” MSPCC Regional Director Nancy Ritz explained.
Ritz said this time of year is especially hard on those families due to added expenses like heat and the holidays. She said something as little as having a toy on Christmas morning could benefit families in a huge way.
“It’s happiness for the families because the parents have toys under their trees and they don’t have to explain why they couldn’t get gifts,” Ritz said. “And children are just so happy about getting something, a little something that makes them feel like they are loved. We deal with foster families too and for them to be able to have toys under their trees is just a huge benefit for them.”
Staff Sgt. Vopal, one of the many Marines serving here in western Massachusetts, said Toys for Tots embodies the Marine Corps values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment.
“It’s great. It helps out the local community and reminds them that we are here to help them.”
How Can I Donate to Toys for Tots?
Visit our lobby at 1 Broadcast Center in Chicopee to donate your new, unwrapped toys at any of the dates and time below:
- December 2 – December 6: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- December 7,8,14, and 15: 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
- December 12, 13, and 16: 8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Smile! You may even be on TV!