The tale of Toys for Tots O‘ahu never gets old with each holiday season, when thousands of toys and stocking stuffers are collected and given away to many of the island’s less-fortunate keiki.
With the holiday season just around the corner, the U.S. Marines are once again going beyond the call of duty with their annual Toys for Tots program.
The mission is simple: Collect new unwrapped toys and deliver hope and joy to less fortunate children at Christmas. The operation, though, is a little more complex. It requires a lot of planning, counting, sorting and coordinating, and, of course, the help of many volunteers and generous donors.
This year’s Toys for Tots O‘ahu campaign kicked off Oct. 1, and donations can be dropped off at one of more than 90 collection boxes throughout the island by Dec. 17. (See list of locations on page 21.) Monetary donations can also be made online.
“There’s never enough toys to give out,” says GySgt. Jonathan Ibarra, volunteer local coordinator of Toys for Tots O‘ahu for the second consecutive year. “We accept toys for all ages. The biggest gap in toys collected is from our birth to 2 years old age group. Also, the 11 years-plus, a lot of teenagers get forgotten.”
Local nonprofits and families experiencing hardship can submit a toy request form at kaneohebay-hi.toysfortots.org by Dec. 10 (late requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis). Upon approval, they will then be assigned to a distribution event Dec. 4-22 to pick up their toys.
“We’ll be there to physically hand out the toys, and see their smiles and the joy it brings,” says Ibarra. “I remember last year … a company dropped off a couple of bicycles. I was extremely impressed with how the community got involved. There’s a lot of good-hearted people out there that will go and buy larger toys that are a little more expensive.
“During one of the distribution events, there was a family with this little girl. I randomly got one of those bicycles and gave it to her and she lit up with happiness. I don’t think she was expecting to even know that she was going to receive toys for Christmas, so when she received the bicycle, which I’m sure she was extremely happy about, it made me happy. I am a father of two and seeing my children happy makes me happy. That was one of the instances I remember that was very impactful to me and why I continue to do it this year.”
Originally from Texas, Ibarra moved to Hawai‘i in May 2019, and is currently working as a parachute safety officer. Amid the pandemic, he was tasked with coordinating last year’s Toys for Tots O‘ahu program, and successfully distributed 21,661 toys, stocking stuffers and books to 16,301 keiki.
“I decided to take it upon myself to volunteer again this year since I already had a little bit of experience from last year,” says Ibarra, noting he has seven more months in Hawai‘i before his next rotation. “During COVID, it was definitely extremely challenging. All I wanted to do was reach out to as many children that I could, even though I was being restricted by a lot of things. I was quarantined for almost 28 days of the campaign because I was still traveling and doing my job for the Marine Corps.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done.”
Like Santa’s elves, Ibarra also has a dedicated team of volunteers in the Toys for Tots shop. Assisting him this year are Sgt. Nathan Stewart and wife Clairece, along with 1st Sgt. Jeremy Bland and wife Christina. The program also receives help from social welfare and community agencies, church groups, businesses and more.
“Clairece is in the warehouse sorting and counting the toys, coordinating the volunteers and getting collection boxes out,” notes Ibarra. “And Christina is helping with a lot of the requests for toys.
“A lot of people believe that the military bases or the Marines are the ones who benefit from this, but it’s nationwide and within our local communities. Donations collected here, stay here.”
Founded in 1947, the first Toys for Tots was held in Los Angeles when Maj. Bill Hendricks and the Marines in his reserve unit collected 5,000 toys for children in need. Hendricks also worked as the director of public relations at Warner Brothers Studios, and was friends with many celebrities who supported the inaugural Toys for Tots program, including Walt Disney, who designed the first Toys for Tots poster that included the iconic miniature three-car train logo.
In 1991, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation was established to help run and support the Marine Toys for Tots Program, and currently distributes an average of 18 million toys to 7 million children annually. In 2001, Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i at Kāne‘ohe Bay officially launched a local campaign, making this year its 20th anniversary.
“I remember being part of a similar program when I was growing up,” shares Ibarra. “There were a lot of times growing up that I didn’t have toys. My mom was going through some hard times, and at that time (I was maybe 8 to 11 years old), I was at school and they selected a couple of students that were going through some hardship. They would take us to this huge party with a combination of different schools in the district, and they would call us up on stage and hand us our gifts. I still remember that skateboard that they gave me, and I got a basketball.
“I think these programs (like Toys for Tots) are very important. These gifts provide a memory for a lifetime. I know it did for me. I believe if we can provide that type of kindness to our local children, they will grow to be better people and be able to give back that kindness and ultimately enjoy a great holiday season.”
Learn more online at kaneohe-bay-hi.toysfortots.org
Help bring joy to disadvantaged keiki this holiday season by dropping o~ new, unwrapped toys by Dec. 17 at any of the collection sites below. Local nonpro˚ ts and families experiencing hardship can submit a toy request form at kaneohe-bay-hi.toysfortots.org by Dec. 10 (late requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis). Upon approval, they will then be assigned a distribution event Dec. 19-22 to pick up their toys.
HONOLULU FEDERAL CREDIT UNION (HOCU)
91-1717B Fort Weaver Road, ‘Ewa Beach
2305 S. Beretania St., Honolulu
3600 Aolele St., Honolulu
(Starting Nov. 22.)
KAPILINA BEACH HOMES
5100 Iroquois Ave., ‘Ewa Beach
(Starting Nov. 29)
WE GO NOTARY
3049 Ualena St. Suite 314, Honolulu
COFFMAN ENGINEERS, INC.
745 Fort St. Ste. 400, Honolulu
2833 Paa St., Honolulu
1450 Ala Moana Blvd. Ste. 3209, Honolulu
94-790 Lumi‘aina St. Ste. 313, Waipahu
UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI‘I AT MĀNOA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY
1951 East West Road, Honolulu
HONOLULU NAVY LEAGUE
47 Arizona Memorial Drive, Honolulu
HAWAI‘I MORTGAGE EXPERTS
6700 Kalaniana‘ole Hwy. Ste. 215, Honolulu
(Starting Dec. 13)
NAVY FEDERAL CREDIT UNION
4256 Radford Drive, Honolulu
95-1830 Meheula Pkwy. Ste. C-7, Mililani
SALT LAKE SHOPPING CENTER
848 Ala Liliko‘i St., Honolulu (Participating stores)
820 Mililani St. No. 400, Honolulu
94-415 Makapipipi St., Mililani
LUCKY STRIKE SOCIAL
1450 Ala Moana Blvd. No. 3260, Honolulu
THE ARMCHAIR ADVENTURER
650 Iwilei Road No. 160, Honolulu
NAVY EXCHANGE HAWAI‘I
4725 Bougainville Drive Bldg. 631, Honolulu
ROYAL HAWAIIAN MOVERS
3017 Ualena St., Honolulu
LE JARDIN ACADEMY
917 Kalaniana‘ole Hwy., Kailua
(Starting Nov. 22)
GOODYEAR AUTO SERVICE CENTER
46-047 Kamehameha Hwy., Kāne‘ohe
BUFFALO WILD WINGS
46-056 Kamehameha Hwy., Kāne‘ohe
761 Wākea St., Kapolei
91-130 Kalaeloa Blvd., Kapolei
THE COCONUT PLANTATION
92-1070 ‘Ōlani St., Kapolei
‘ILIMA AT LEIHANO SENIOR LIVING
739 Leihano St., Kapolei
MILILANI SHOPPING CENTER
95-221 Kīpapa Drive, Mililani (Participating stores)
PEARL HIGHLANDS CENTER
1000 Kamehameha Hwy., Pearl City
(Participating stores, starting Dec. 1)
ISLAND PREPAREDNESS GROUP
87-105 Liliana St., Wai‘anae
94-157 Leoleo St., Waipahu
94-207 Waipahu St., Waipahu
94-333 Waipahu Depot St., Waipahu
Multiple locations throughout O‘ahu