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Experiencing The Christmas Spirit Like Never Before Thanks To The USMC

Editorial: Jay Cochran - 2010.12.23
Tis the season. Christmas time has always been a favorite time of the year for me for a number of reasons. Second only to Halloween (yes I said Halloween), Christmas for me is a time to put up decorations (if my wife let me I would probably decorate like the Griswalds), listen to Christmas music 24hrs a day on the radio, spend time with family and eat lots of good food… oh and then there is the whole getting and opening presents thing.

It’s the last one and the fact I work with action figures and toy companies for my job on a daily basis that when I first started my company ENI almost 10 years ago that I decided to do what I could every year to collect toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Toys For Tots program. I truly feel that every kid should get to experience that joy of waking up Christmas morning and coming downstairs to find at least one new gift under the tree.

This year ENI teamed up with Beyond Comics, a local comic book store in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, where we collected toys and held a raffle to give away a very cool Transformers Optimus Prime toy autographed by voice actor Peter Cullen, the person who voiced the character in the original 80’s cartoon and the new live-action movies. From these efforts, we managed to collect more than four collection boxes of unwrapped toys and over $600 in cash donations for Toys for Tots. First, I want to thank Jon Cohen and John Shine from Beyond Comics for working with us to do this; I also give a big thanks to everyone who came out and donated toys or money this year. Congratulations to Brendan Marshall of Germantown, MD for winning the Optimus Prime raffle.

Second, I want to talk about something a little different I got to do this year for Toys for Tots. As I mentioned before, I normally work to collect toys to donate, but this year I also had an opportunity to work on the other side of this wonderful program. As a volunteer, I spent two days with the U.S. Marines stationed in Frederick, MD picking up toys from retailers who had spent the season collecting them and then sorting and distributing those toys at their distribution centers in Frederick and Montgomery Counties (MD).

Headed by Sgt. William N. Wolbert, this was truly an inspiring thing to be a part of. I was able to witness and work with some truly amazing Marines. Most of these guys recently returned from tours of duty in Afghanistan where they had seen combat and even lost fellow comrades in battle. One of the Marines I spent the first day with was a Purple Heart recipient, and here they were now fighting to make sure kids could have a Merry Christmas. I know people often throw around terms like Christmas Spirit and Christmas Miracles this time of year, but I can honestly say that seeing these guys in action, I got to experience those things like never before.

This year, despite the economy and snowfalls that even caused a roof collapse in one of their distribution centers and some minor flooding, Toys for Tots managed to collect and hand out toys to 33,676 kids in Montgomery and Frederick Counties this year. The word Heroes barely does justice for what these guys do, both for this country overseas and here at home. I just want to express my sincere thanks to them for all they have done and for allowing me to experience the Christmas Spirit in a way that I never have before.

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