Reversing Course, Marines to Accept Jesus Doll Gifts

By Chansin Bird
Religion News Service
Saturday, November 18, 2006

A 12-inch talking Jesus doll may find its way to needy children this Christmas after the Marines' Toys for Tots Christmas toy drive reversed course Wednesday and decided to accept the dolls.

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation initially had declined a donation of 4,000 Jesus dolls from the Valencia, Calif.-based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co., saying they could be inappropriate for non-Christian children.

"We realized it's a lot less time-consuming to find homes for the dolls than it is to answer media and complaints," said Bill Grein, vice president of the foundation in Quantico.

When the decision to reject the toys got out, the toy company began receiving hundreds of phone calls and e-mails from organizations and people who would like to receive the dolls.

"The phones are ringing off the hook. There is a new e-mail every few seconds. It is unbelievable," said Michael La Roe, director of business development for the company.

"We had someone write in from Okinawa, Japan. The word is spreading all over the country and, in some cases, all over the world."

The dolls, which retail for $20, quote six Scripture verses from the Gospels of Matthew and John, including, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

La Roe said that within the next few days, the toy company will sort through all the requests and try to see how it can accommodate as many people as possible.

The company will also try to accommodate the Marine program, but it will not give all 4,000 dolls to Toys for Tots.

The dolls it does give to the Marines, though, will be distributed on a local level to Toys for Tots chapters in California.

La Roe said that by the end of this year, his company will have donated close to $1 million in retail value of product.

Samaritan's Purse, a relief agency run by evangelist Franklin Graham, has received thousands of the dolls.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company