OCEAN CITY – Around this time of year, local restaurants come together to raise money and collect toys for the annual Toys for Tots drive, sponsored by the First State Detachment Marine Corp League.
According to Toys for Tots history, the first Toys for Tots campaign took place in Los Angeles during Christmas in 1947. Major Bill Hendricks had his local reserve unit collect and distribute 5,000 toys to needy children in the Los Angeles area.
The following year the Commandant of the Marine Corps made Toys for Tots a mission of the Marine Corps reserve. That year, Walt Disney designed the now famous Toys for Tots logo.
Since 1948, the First State Marine Corp League supported the reserve units. In 1996, the Marine Corp League (MCL) was given permission to conduct its own Toys for Tots campaign.
In 2009, the foundation distributed 16.3 million toys to 7.4 million needy children. The First State Detachment distributed 6,331 toys to 2,778 needy children in the area.
The MCL is a veterans association of former active duty marines, who served the county honorable and continue to serve the community.
It’s been quoted that “old Marines don’t fade away, they go to Toys for Tots,” said a retiring major some years ago.
According to Jack Carey, the local Toys for Tots coordinator, the Toys for Tots buffets have been in the works for about 10 years, and the participating restaurants change every couple years.
“We have been a great success with the events,” Carey said.
Every weekend during the month of December, a different local restaurant will hold a buffet to raise donations and collect toys. The cost to feast is $10 per person or a new unwrapped toy of equal value. There is also music provided by Imagine.
This year’s buffets will kick off on Dec. 4 at the House of Welsh in Fenwick Island.
Other restaurants hosting the event include The Cove at Bayside, which is a new addition this year on Saturday, Dec. 11; the Princess Royale on Sunday, Dec. 12, VFW Post 8296 in Ocean City on Saturday, Dec. 18; and Magnolia’s in Ocean View on Sunday, Dec. 19. The feasts will be held from 1-4 p.m.
Also this year there will be a happy hour buffet provided at Mio Fratello Italian Steakhouse in Fenwick Island, on Wednesday, Dec. 15, from 5-8 p.m. Cost is $10 donation per person or new unwrapped toy of equal value. Imagine will also perform during this event.
The buffets usually feature an assortment of meats, potatoes, vegetables, salad, dessert, and coffee or tea. There is also a cash bar provided.
Besides the buffets, the Marine Corp League, and other private parties, provide Toys for Tots collection boxes. Locations where the boxes are held are scattered around town, including the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, VFW Post 8296, the Crab Cake Factory, Shore Management, Coconut Kids, Susquehanna Bank, Jordan’s Rooftop Restaurant, Ocean View Grill, Duffy’s Tavern, Park Place Jewelers, and Merrill Lynch.
“The toys that are collected in Maryland go to our distribution center in Berlin,” Carey said. “All toys stay in the community.”
Different agencies distribute the donations, such as St. George’s Greek Church, Berlin Head Start Program, the Department of Social Services, Church of Holy Spirit, Ocean City Police Department, Blessing House Ministries, Diakonia, and Children with Cancer, according to Carey.
“This year we have 678 needy children,” Carey said. “We hope to give three toys per child.”