TUCKER PAVING is all aboard the Toys for Toys train this year. Team members are working hard to help a greater number of the area’s more needy children have a bright and happy Christmas.

The Tucker Paving front office, in our headquarters at 3545 Lake Alfred Road (U.S. Highway 17 North) in Winter Haven, is an official 2017 collection point for new and unwrapped toys for the annual Toys for Tots gift drive. The toys will be distributed closer to Christmas Day to designated and deserving young children throughout Winter Haven and Polk County.

Lots of toys for boys and girls are needed, and we encourage everyone to participate — if able and willing — in this very worthwhile program. Financial gifts are welcome, too. Secure donations can be made through the online portal here.

Most adults have heard about Toys for Tots, but how much do you really know about the program? A visit to the program’s official website reveals a fascinating history. What follows is just a brief selection of the Toys for Tots facts and figures we found interesting.

  • Maj. Bill Hendricks of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve founded Toys for Tots in Los Angeles in 1947. Approximately 5,000 toys were collected during a campaign before Christmas 1947. The first donated toy was a handmade doll.
  • The U.S. Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948 and expanded it into a nationwide community action project as the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots Program. Marines at each Reserve Center throughout the nation conducted toy-collection and distribution campaigns in the communities surrounding each center.
  • Also in 1948, Walt Disney designed the now-famous Toys for Tots train logo and created the first national Toys for Tots poster.
  • By 1949, major celebrities had begun to endorse the program. Though the years, Toys for Tots spokespeople have included John Wayne, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, George Strait, Brooke Shields, Charlton Heston, Ann Margaret, Sammy Davis, Jr., Doris Day, Andy Griffith, Charlie Daniels, Clint Eastwood, Johnny Carson, Tim Allen, Kenny Rogers, and former first ladies Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush, among many others.
  • In 1956, Oscar-winning songwriters Sammy Fain and Paul Webster composed the Toys for Tots theme song, which later was recorded by Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, and Vic Damone.
  • Toys for Tots went international in 1959, following the catastrophic typhoon that devastated the city of Nagoya, Japan, that year. The other two occasions donated toys were distributed internationally was in 1988, to the Republic of Panama, following the U.S. invasion there, and in 1989, to Caribbean nations, following the devastation of Hurricane Hugo.
  • In 1962, the New York Yankees sponsored the first major sports event to benefit Toys for Tots. It was a “Bring a Toy Game” with the Washington Senators.
  • From 1947 through Christmas 1979, Marines collected and distributed both new and used toys. Reservists refurbished used toys on drill weekends during October, November, and December. Since Christmas 1980, Marines have collected and distributed only new toys.
  • Diane Hendricks, the creator of the first Toys for Tots toy, a handmade doll, died on Oct. 13, 1988, at the age of 82.
  • In 1989, the U.S. Marine Corps identified the need to create a charity to be the fundraising and support organization for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. The memorandum of agreement between the Marine Forces Reserve (under a new name) and Marine Toys for Tots Foundation was signed in 1992.
  • Toys for Tots founder Col. William L. Hendricks, USMCR (Ret.), died on March 29, 1992, at the age of 87.
  • The Marines celebrated the 50th anniversary of Toys for Tots in 1997. Entertainer Kenny Rogers was the national Toys for Tots spokesman during the 50th anniversary year.
  • Last year, the Marine Toys for Tots Program collected and distributed 18 million toys to 7 million less-fortunate children, primarily those up to age 12. The community-action program took place in 792 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The program’s total revenue for 2016 was more than $280 million. Records were set in direct-mail and website donations.

For much more about the Marine Toys for Tots Program, you can visit the program’s official website here.