Jim Bruns of Springfield donated 30 handmade wooden toys. A woman anonymously sent two dolls and a soft stuffed yellow rabbit. Redskins fans handed over 25,000 toys on Sunday. And still there are not enough gifts for the U.S. Marine Corps to meet the demand for Christmas toys for area children this year.
Sgt. Anthony Smalls, the man who is in charge of this year's Toys for Tots campaign, remains optimistic. After all, this year's contributions from the fans at Sunday's game broke all records for a one-day donation.
"We got the momentum going now," he said. "If we can just keep it up, we will reach our goal."
The goal is to gather 100,000 new, unwrapped toys for distribution to about 200 service groups in Maryland, Virginia and the District by Dec. 20. So far, the Marines have collected 33,000 toys, 14,000 fewer than they had last year at this time. However, Smalls need only to look back at a week ago, when the Santa Claus shop had just 1,000 toys. He knows the situation is improving.
In response to a newspaper story about the trickle of toys coming in this year instead of the usual flood, the Washington Gas Light Co., among other businesses, responded quickly. On Friday, the gas company purchased 1,000 toys and presented them to the Marines. Other companies canceled Christmas parties and donated the money.
Yesterday, Marines and citizen volunteers dug into a hill of toys, puzzles and games to pull together an assortment of 20 gifts, which were then stuffed into large green garbage bags. Barbie dolls, GI Joe trucks and old-fashioned checker games were joined by white teddy bears, red jump-ropes and yellow balls.
The Rev. Ponce Brown, of the Allen Chapel Outreach Center in Garfield Heights in Southeast Washington, was one of several people to come by yesterday to pick up bags of toys.
"We will put some toys into each of our Christmas baskets," he said. "We are very happy with the toys and with the Marines. This means there will be no sad little faces on Christmas Day for our children."
Last week, Smalls had to tell many organizations waiting to pick up toys that there just were not enough to go around this year.
He said he tried to make service organizations and single parents a priority as he evaluated each request.
Among the groups that the Marines were able to help was the American Legion in Forestville.
Yesterday, Patrick Bateman, commander of the Sons of the American Legion, said the Marines had given him 600 toys. He said they already have been distributed to four churches, the Elks Club and his Legion post.
"We are just tickled," he said. "We had first heard we would not receive any toys this year but people have responded and made all of this possible."
The Marines are not the only military group looking out for area children.
The 100-member Air Force Honor Guard also has been collecting cash and toys. So far, the guard has received $18,000 in cash and toys, according to Lt. Barry Brown, an Air Force spokesman. He said the honor guard will give all it collects to Yetta Galiber, executive director of the Information Protection and Advocacy Center for Handicapped Children.
For the last 19 years, Galiber has organized a Christmas store so that 20,000 area children with physical or mental difficulties can select three, free presents for themselves or others.
Galiber said she expects to meet her goal in time to open the annual shop on Saturday at the D.C. Armory.