The U.S. Marines, accompanied by a U.S. Embassy employee, spent their Christmas holidays handing out toys to hundreds of Liberian children at orphanages, girls’ homes, and centers for abused children throughout the greater Monrovia area.
The group visited My Brother’s Keeper, which houses 125 children and youths, Mama Weah’s Orphanage, with 45 children, and the Children Rescue Center, with 75 children – all located on the Monrovia-Kakata highway about an hour outside of the capital.
The U.S. Marines also visited the THINK clinic safe house for children from 2-10 years old, who have been victims of abuse, sexual assault, and trafficking.
The U.S. Marines collected the toys for several months from U.S. Embassy employees, and from local and American businesses. They selected the sites as beneficiaries for their annual “Toys for Tot” campaign because the institutions are legally registered as non-governmental organizations in Liberia, care for handicapped children, and integrate skills training into their curriculums.
The U.S. Marines’ “Toys for Tots” campaign began in December 1947 with one handcrafted doll. The wife of Marine Reserve Major Bill Hendricks made the doll and asked her husband to deliver it to an organization that would present it to a less fortunate child on Christmas Day.
Major Hendricks could find no agency to provide such a service. To help fill that void, Major Hendricks and members of his Los Angeles Marine Reserve unit collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children in Los Angeles during Christmas 1947. The seed was planted and “Toys for Tots” was born.
The following year the Marine Corps Reserve adopted the program and collected and distributed toys in 74 communities across the United States.
Over the years, U.S. Marines have distributed over 416,000,000 toys and brought the joy of Christmas and a message of hope to more than 195,000,000 children around the world. The Marine Corps collects and distributes an average of 16 million toys to an average of seven million children each year at Christmas in the United States and in countries where U.S. Marine Corps detachments are assigned.