WASHINGTON - First lady Michelle Obama, arms full of K’NEX, Beanie Babies, books and footballs, praised the armed services for supporting Toys for Tots during the holiday season.
Honoring the military roots of the Toys for Tots - a service project started by a Marine reservist and his wife in 1947 – Obama sorted toys with Marines Tuesday at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.
“The miraculous thing about you all and your spirit is, somehow, you always are the first people to volunteer for something,” Obama said, recognizing the hardships that military families face, including frequent moves to different posts. “Somehow you're always the ones who find the extra hours in the day to give back, above and beyond what life has thrown your way anyway.”
Obama called on people to give back to military families by volunteering with Joining Forces, a program she started with Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, that provides support to the families of deployed service members.
“Everyone can do something to show their gratitude and to give back. It's the same idea that drives Toys for Tots year after year - the belief that we all have something to contribute,” Obama said.
Walking to the stage with a Santa Claus sack full of toys, Obama presented Marines in fatigues with more than 900 toys that were collected at the White House – with contributions from the first family.
“I think we have a larger contribution this year than even before,” Obama said, “And I brought as many as I could here with me today, but we're going to keep the drive going and keep sending it over.”
Sasha and Malia Obama donated dresses they had outgrown, while President Barack Obama brought back boxes of K’NEX construction toys after touring the company in Hatfield, Pa. The first lady said K’NEX CEO Michael Araten donated the toys.
“My husband brought some of them back with him from his visit to the company a couple of weeks ago,” Obama said. “We hope that it inspires people across this country who may be watching this press conference to get into the spirit of giving this holiday season.”
Obama urged donors to keep preteens and younger teens in mind when giving to Toys for Tots this holiday season.
“A lot of times when we do the shopping, we like to reach for the cute little bear or the little doll, but the truth is, is that they also need gifts for older kids as well,” Obama said.
Obama said books, games, clothing and backpacks make great presents for children ages 11 to 14 - an often overlooked age group.
“If your teens are like mine, they want some clothes, something cute to wear,” Obama said.
Obama praised her daughters for their altruism and urged parents to get their children involved in volunteering.
“It's a great way to get your kids involved by making them collect toys,” Obama said. “It's a great way to get kids involved in the spirit.
Toys for Tots started in 1947 with Maj. Bill Hendricks, a Marine reservist in Los Angeles, and his wife, Diane. The couple sought to donate toys to children in need, but found no organization that would accept and distribute them. Since 1948, the Marine Corps has collected donated toys and given them to the children of families unable to afford holiday gifts.
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