First lady Obama returns to support Toys for Tots

By Paul Bello

Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (Dec. 16, 2011) – The First lady is no stranger to Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) or to its Toys for Tots program. For the third year in a row, she spent an afternoon helping Marines sort toys.

Michelle Obama stopped by JBAB’s Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center Dec. 16 with two big red bags filled with toys donated from White House staff members for the occasion.

The gifts will be handed out to underprivileged children living in the Washington, D.C. area.

“I always look forward to coming by and seeing folks come together to make the holidays a little brighter for their neighbors,” Obama said. “This is a great way for me personally to end the season and thank everyone for doing what they can for kids who don’t have the fortune of having people by them presents”

Earlier that morning, Obama said she explained the origin of Toys for Tots to her daughter, Malia, and remarked that military families are selfless and dedicated to helping others.

She told her the program is 60 years old and that it was started by a Marine’s wife who had asked her active-duty husband to donate a hand-made doll to a child in need.

According to Obama, that simple gesture has been carried on by millions of people over the decades and has made Toys for Tots an invaluable organization to families and children everywhere.

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“Along with Jill Biden, we’ve decided to join forces to honor, recognize and support veterans and military families. For me, I can’t ask for a better program to be a part of than this one right here,” Obama said. “The best part about Toys for Tots is that everyone can do something. You don’t have to live at the White House, spend a fortune or be an expert in military life. You just have to want to give a little bit back to the community and to your country.”

As an extra special tribute to military families this year, Obama said messages and pictures to servicemembers are on display at the White House and will be showcased right through the holidays.

Pete Osman, president/CEO of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, said Obama has been hands-on with Toys for Tots and that she’s always kept her word about coming back.

“I was happy she did it her first year, but she’s come back now three years in a row. I know how busy her schedule is and that means so much to us,” Osman said. “She has really taken on the task of helping military families. It’s fantastic to see her this involved.”

Osman said there are a total of 730 local Toys for Tots campaigns nationwide this year, which is up from the 713 there were last year. Between corporate donors, sponsors and monetary donations, Osman said he estimates nearly $27 million in donations to this year’s program.

“First lady Obama’s visit is very beneficial to us. It’s a joy to have her here and shows just how concerned she is about helping young children,” said Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. James Sirmones, Toys for Tots coordinator for Marine Corps Site Anacostia, based at JBAB. “This is my first year doing Toys for Tots and I can’t thank the base command and all the volunteers enough. We couldn’t have done this without them.”

Sirmones said toys are still be collected right up to the holidays and that anyone wishing to donate items can still do so by stopping by the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center. For additional information, visit toys www.toysfortots.org.

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