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Toot toot! Time for Toys for Tots

The holidays are a time for family, fun, decorations and most of all, giving. Bring the gift of a new toy to a child in need this holiday season, and that toy will bring a smile to his or her face year-round. The easiest way to brighten someone’s holiday this season is through the Toys for Tots program. Collection boxes are adorned with the familiar train logo, a hallmark of the holidays.

Toys for Tots has been an American holiday tradition since 1947 when United States Marine Corps Major Bill Hendricks started the campaign with the support of members of the Los Angles Marine Corps Reserve unit. That year, they collected nearly 5,000 toys for children of families in need and over the course of the last 67 years, it has been a staple in communities across the nation, including Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties in the 209.

Master Gunnery Sergeant Ray Bael is taking on a tall task, as this is his first year at the helm of the Stanislaus County Toys for Tots effort.

“This is my first year as coordinator but I have been with Toys for Tots for the past seven years, so this is my eighth year overall and I enjoy it very much,” said Bael, loading up boxes of toys at the program’s storage building.

Bael and his helpers have been hard at work sorting through boxes of thousands of toys at their facility, with the space generously donated to them by Lori Gikas of The Golden Gate Nut Company of Ripon.

“We were more than willing to provide them a place to sort and store the toys for the kids. Toys for Tots has helped kids in our community for years, and we are more than happy to have them here for as long as they need it,” Gikas said.

With the help of some family members and fellow Marines, Bael has already sorted through thousands of bicycles, toys, books, and stuffed animals and is getting ready to hand them out to those in need.
“Toys R Us in Modesto gave us a head start on donations, as they donated approximately 300 toys. That’s amazing because we know that the kids will enjoy them and have a wonderful holiday,” Bael said about the charitable act of one of their biggest supporters.

Soon the United States Marine Corps will have its reserves standing outside a Wal-Mart near you seeking donations, along with the sounds of KAT Country 103 broadcasting live at many of the locations. Visit

and see how you can help brighten children’s spirits this holiday season.