Toys For Tots kicks off

Toys For Tots kicks off
Christmas, of course, is a time for family and friends, but for kids, it's also about presents. For those families in our area that have to choose rent and utilities over toys, it can be a difficult time; that's where the "Toys For Tots" program comes in.

"It's very rewarding to see all the kids getting all the toys and stuff," says Sgt. Yan Luo of the US Marine Corps Reserve, volunteering at the event. "And they're going to have a great Christmas now because they're going to have outstanding toys for Christmas."

Parents lined up Friday night to get tickets to mark their place in line; then they lined back up early Saturday morning, in number order, to fill out their wish lists.

"I'm a full-time student," explains Tammy Gould of Eugene, "so it's hard for me to afford gifts for my kids, so we come out here and at least (my son) can have some."

Just about 7600 people are expected to go through this line and through these doors over the two days this weekend. That's 7600 Christmas mornings for local kids that might have otherwise gone without.

"(Twelve-year-old) Jasmine," says Kerri Elam of Eugene, naming off her children, "and then I have Hailey, who's eight, Madeline is six, and my son is four."

Elam is shopping for four Saturday morning; with such a large brood at home, she says, "Toys For Tots" takes some of the stress out of the holidays.

"It's awesome," Elam says. "When you can't afford to take money and spend it on bills and everything else, and try to get Christmas presents for the whole family, it's a lot of help. And it makes you feel secure like your at least going to have something for them."

The mountains of toys, from games and dolls to a zoo full of stuffed animals, are given out for free to needy families, thanks to an army, or better yet, a Marine Corps of volunteers.

"The toys and monies are collected from individuals throughout Lane County, and we're stewards of that," says Matt Reger of the Eugene Fire Department, another volunteer. "And we try to make those dollars go as far as possible, and to be able to provide an additional toy for someone, for their children, I mean, that rocks! That's what it's all about."

The "Toys For Tots" giveaway continues Sunday at Chavez Elementary in Eugene. It will run from 8 AM to 5 PM, or until the toys run out.