Toys for Tots starts slow, finishes big

December 21, 2009 (CHICAGO) At Marine headquarters on Foster Avenue on the North Side of Chicago the Christmas gifts just keep on coming. It has been a big last several days for the 2nd battalion, 24th Marines-- and it's all happening after a slow start.

"We were about 250,000 toys short prior to this past weekend. And since then the community has just been stepping up," said Gunnery Sergeant Michael Michalski, U.S. Marines Toys for Tots.

"The toys have been coming in almost non stop. We have been receiving about 400 toys almost every twenty minutes," said Gunnery Sergeant Shawn Doty, U.S. Marines Toys for Tots.

This doesn't mean there are too many toys -- but it does show a bit of a different economy. Last year when ABC7 visited the gym was basically empty and the program had difficulty filling its orders for churches and other community groups. This year the giving is up even though purse strings are still tight.

"There's even people I know who do not have anything or they have very little ... and they are giving to make sure each child has a toy," said Gunnery Sergeant Doty.

Almost all of the marines here working on toys for tots have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"It's definitely two different wars we're fighting. One is a war about trying to get every child a toy which is a lot harder emotionally. Over there it was much harder physically being away from home for the holidays," said Cpl. Tony Reyes, U.S. Marines Toys For Tots.

The marines are famous for carrying out orders --but this is one order that's very hard to fulfill. They need about 540,000 toys this year to help out 750 organizations. But guess what? They just might make it with a little more help.

Donations of new toys valued at about $15 can be made- before Wednesday night- to Toys for Tots, 3034 W. Foster, Chicago.

"We can never have too many toys here. There are plenty of children out here who need toys," said Gunnery Sergeant Michalski.

Toys for Tots began in 1947 by the United States Marine. During the past 62 years, they have collected millions of toys for millions of children.

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