The C-130 cargo plane took off from Reagan National Airport with a jolt that nearly stacked its passengers on top of each other. The moment elicited the kind of nervous laughter that only comes from people that don’t do this every day.
But this mission was different.
There were no combat supplies aboard this flight. Instead there was $50,000 worth of toys to be delivered to families in New Jersey affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The Marine’s Toys for Tot Foundation teamed with the Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squad, Lockheed Martin, Signature Flight Support, Hasbro and LivingSocial in the effort. The trip included a stop at Reagan National, where nearly 100 people, mostly soldiers, business leaders and supporters, gathered in a hangar to load toys into the aircraft, part of the Navy’s Blue Angels aerial team.
“Obviously … every Christmas we do our best to help those who are less fortunate,” said retired Lt. Gen. Pete Osman, president and chief executive of the Toys for Tots Foundation, which is headquartered outside of Quantico. “But this year is a little different in that we had a natural disaster that happened just as the holidays were beginning to approach.”
The operation collected nearly $700,000 worth of toys from Hasbro, Toys R Us, Lockheed Martin employees and local businesses to give to an estimated 10,000 children.
Fat Albert — the name the Blue Angels affectionately call their chubby C-130 — flew from its home site in Pensacola, Fla., to New Jersey, making stops in Marietta, Ga., and Washington to pick up additional toys.
Nearly 200 Marines at the McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst base in New Jersey unloaded the gifts in an assembly line and gave them to families there.
Lockheed Martin’s partnership with the Blue Angels began three years ago when the two organized a shipment of $20,000 worth of toys to 500 New Orleans families affected by the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina. Finding it a success, they organized another trip the following year to support victims of tornados in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Lockheed executives say the partnership with the Blue Angels has been a unique component of the company’s overall corporate philanthropy.
“Many companies can make in-kind donations like computers or toys,” said Emily Simone, director of Lockheed’s global community outreach. “We can’t donate a jet or cargo plane. So the partnership with Blue Angels is perfect.”
In recent years, more companies are engaging in this type of “strategic philanthropy” or giving that aligns with a company’s business interests.
Companies like Lockheed, Siemens and Raytheon invest in youth science, technology, engineering and math education because of the companies’ heavy reliance upon engineers. Lockheed executives said the company plans to hire 60,000 engineers in the next five to 10 years. Companies such as PNC Bank, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers invest in youth financial literacy along with Capital One, which donated $2.5 million to build Finance Park, a 20,000-square-foot interactive personal finance museum for youth.
Lockheed spends 20 percent of its annual $25 million philanthropy budget on community projects, 30 percent on supporting the military and 50 percent on STEM education.