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Terri Moon Cronk - American Forces Press Service
JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C., Dec. 17, 2010 – First Lady Michelle Obama joined military and civilian volunteers here today to sort gifts for the Marine Corps Reserve’s “Toys for Tots” program, which collects and distributes holiday gifts for underprivileged children.
"We're so proud of the work you do for the country and the fact that you are putting it all out for kids across this country," she told the group in a warehouse brimming with large, colorful gift boxes marked by age groups. "We couldn't do it without your leadership."
Servicemembers' families play a big role in making the program work, Obama noted. "It is just another tribute to the hard work that our military families put into this country, after already sacrificing so much for this country," she said.
The idea for Toys for Tots came from a Marine reservist and his wife more than 60 years ago, the first lady said.
"Ever since then,” she added, “our military members and their families have made the holidays brighter for millions of kids all across the country. It's another example of how military families are always willing to do their part for their community."
Obama’s motorcade to the event included a vanload of toys.
"We're here today because we want to do our part," she said. "We've been collecting toys from our staff, and today we brought as many as we could fit into one [vehicle], but there's still more to come."
The first lady took the opportunity to ask the public to contribute to the program, noting that it’s now possible to contribute toys online through the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation’s website, http://www.toysfortots.org. She also asked people not only to think of infants and small children when shopping for gifts, but also to keep older children in mind.
"We're working with families with kids as old as 14 years, and we want to be sure that these preteens and teens have something to open on Christmas, too,” she said.
Clothing, books and backpacks are good gifts for that age group, Obama said.
"If you've already donated for the little kids, and you want to take one more shot at it for the bigger kids, we'd encourage you to do so," she added.
People experiencing financial struggles know someone else needs more of a hand up, Obama said, and participating in the program does more than simply helping the gift recipients.
"Taking the time to shop for another family really teaches our kids the importance of giving at a time when they're expecting to get,” the first lady said. “It teaches them by your example."
Obama spent time with the troops and volunteers, sorting toys into the decorated boxes that soon were overflowing with presents.
Over the 62 years of Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program, Marines have distributed more than 400 million toys to more than 188 million children in need, according to the foundation’s website.