Even though he has a small army of elves, when the big guy needs help, he calls the Marines! The Toys for Tots program is run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which collects and distributes toys to local children in need. Started in 1947 by Marine Corps Reservist Major William L. Hendricks, the program is officially authorized by the Department of Defense and a recognized mission of the Marine Corps Reserve, who provide the organizational skills and volunteers to both collect and deliver toys locally.
Accepting the toys on behalf of the Marine Corps Reserves this year were Oxford resident and retired Staff Sgt. Randall Wilson, and Cpl. Bernstein from Fort Dix, N.J., based in Golf Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Artillery Regiment.
On Thursday, Dec., 15th, the Marines picked up a U-Haul Truck donated by Superior Storage of Shelton, to begin their collection efforts. They collected toys from Sikorsky Aircraft’s Training Systems Group, in Trumbull, and several other Sikorsky facilities and departments, in Stratford and Shelton. Later that evening, they stopped by to collect toys from Oxford Girl Scouts who held a sing along and toy collection event.
After a full day of collecting toys, the pair was treated to a dinner fit for warriors, donated by Rose’s Restaurant of Oxford. Cpl. Bernstein, who is a volunteer EMT in Shelton, had more than a full day, coming off the three full shifts into a full day of toy collecting. His dedication to the children of our community helped him through what was an exhausting day. Heritage Hotels of Southbury, donated a room for the Marine so he would not have to drive back later that evening.
Early Friday morning, the Marines made an unplanned stop at Quaker Farms School, to collect toys. The children were studying positive character traits through the Character Education Program coordinated by Mrs. LaRock and Principal Cacase. December’s school trait was, appropriately, generosity. The children and staff were thrilled to see Cpl. Bernstein in his dress blues and received a first-hand demonstration of generosity in action.
The pair were also took part in the donation of the toys to children at Bridgeport Hospital. “There are few times in a Marine's career when they get to support and help the people that they fight for every single day,” said Cpl. Bernstein. “It was a privilege and an honor to collect the toys from these generous donors, and a precious moment to directly hand them to the families that needed them the most. Sure I was tired, sure I was hungry - but seeing the smiles on these kids made it all worth it."
Wilson has a special connection to the Toys for Tots Program. As a young boy, his single mother had fallen on hard times and reached out to the Toys for Tots for assistance. She brought young Randy and his sister to the local Marine Corps League who hosted a Christmas Dinner. There Santa arrived on a fire truck, lights and siren blazing, accompanied by Marines in their uniforms. Then he called each child by name, where the Marines handed out the toys.
“I still remember the feeling as I looked up at that towering wall of blue and red, adorned with medals, as he, the U.S. Marine, handed me the only gifts I would receive that year," Wilson said. "They were the most precious gifts I had ever received!"
Years later, Wilson was eager to return this kindness and help make this Christmas a special one for children in need.
“I wanted to be able to recreate that feeling of hope and loving care for children like my young self. Working with the Toys for Tots foundation, Cpl Bernstein and the many gracious volunteers and donors has made this one the greatest Christmas of my short life. I truly look forward to participating next year,” Wilson added.
The spirit of Christmas is about giving, and through the hard work of these two volunteers and the generosity of the people of Oxford; that spirit was with hundreds of children in our area. Thanks to Mr. Wilson and Cpl. Bernstein, and all who contributed for making this holiday season special.
If you would like to support the Toys for Tots Program, you can help. Visit: http://www.toysfortots.org/.