CHRISTMAS 2014 – Creating lots of smiles at Christmas time

Toys for Tots brings joy  to Daytona families; distributes about 10,000 gifts to local kids

BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
DAYTONA TIMES

More than 150,000 toys have been given away since the inception of the Toys for Tots program in Daytona Beach over a decade ago. Looking at the smiles on the faces of the parents, children and volunteers this past Saturday, it was easy to see why.

A volunteer sorts through hundreds of toys inside the Mainland High School gymnasium Saturday morning. (Photos by ASHLEY D. THOMAS/DAYTONA TIMES)
A volunteer sorts through hundreds of toys inside the Mainland High School gymnasium Saturday morning.
(Photos by ASHLEY D. THOMAS/DAYTONA TIMES)

“You just don’t know how much this means to our family,” Amanda R., a 31-year-old mother of three told the Daytona Times. “Times are hard this year and I was up at night just worrying how I was going to pull off Christmas for my kids. I knew that they would have something under the tree, but would that mean asking for another extension on the electric bill or taking out a payday loan that I couldn’t afford?”

Donna Victory, center, is flanked by Marines at the Toys for Tots event on Dec. 20.  Henry L. Butts, who started the local project, is fourth from left.
Donna Victory, center, is flanked by Marines at the Toys for Tots event on Dec. 20.
Henry L. Butts, who started the local project, is fourth from left.

Over 1,000 families helped
“Of course Christmas isn’t just about getting presents and my children and I understand that,” she continued.  “But that doesn’t make me feel any better when I can’t provide for them. They go back to school and all the kids will talk about what they got for Christmas and then they have to make up some excuse. I’m just so appreciative for whatever we get from the Marines.”

Amanda’s family, along with over 1,000 other families, received bikes, dolls, stuffed animals and educational items for children in need this Christmas. Upwards of 10,000 toys were distributed at the event at Mainland High School.

According to Henry L. Butts, founder of the project in Daytona Beach, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program started in 1937.

A soft spot for kids
“It’s all about the children when it comes to Marines and Toys for Tots,” Butts, a staff sergeant in the Marines said.

“It’s not about the parents but more about the kids. They know that someone loves them. We are letting the public see there is another side to their Marine. We are tough, we are hardcore, but at the same time we also care about things that touch the heart. Every year all the Marines at I&I sites (reserve centers) around the country have been mandated by the Commonwealth of the Marine Corps to continue to carry out this project. “

Parents wait outside Mainland High School for the Toys for Tots distribution.
Parents wait outside Mainland High School for the Toys for Tots distribution.

“After we take care of the families who went through the process of registration, we move on to families who did not,” he shared. “Our plan is to not take any of these toys back.”

Another Marine on site, Peter Carelli, shared his thoughts on the generosity of local businesses in the giving process.

“It is my responsibility to get a Marine out to each business that has agreed to participate,” Carelli explained. “You see the community stepping up. You see corporations or even small companies and some think, ‘Oh they are all about money,’ and you see no, they really care. We are here to help one another. If we can’t help the world, we help our country. That’s what our country is about.”

Humble beginnings
Although the Toys for Tots program has been around for 87 years, Bishop Samuel L. Butts explained how Henry was instrumental in bringing the program to Daytona Beach.

“9/11 happened and my brother Henry decided to enroll in the Marine Corps. He came home during Christmas one year and saw that nothing was being done in our community. That’s how the Daytona Beach Toys for Tots started.

Counting this year we’ve given away 150,000 toys.”

“It’s because of the generosity of people’s heart that we are able to do what we do for our community,” he continued.

“These toys go to people that live in Daytona Beach. They don’t go outside of Daytona Beach. That’s what makes the Daytona Beach campaign so special.”

The Butts brothers aren’t the only ones with a far-reaching heart. Their sister, Donna Victory, is the head coordinator, putting in hundreds of hours each year organizing the big day. She started working on the program in July.

To volunteer, be a family recipient, community or agency partner for 2015, visit DaytonaBeachToysForTots.com for more information.

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