Annual toy drive brings North Pole, Marines to SCV

Albert Rodriguez, Tim Stratton and Romer Valenzuela, left to right, Marine veterans, along with Santa Claus and his little helper, talk to a child at the 14th annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots toy drive at Realty Executives in Newhall on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Gilbert Bernal/The Signal

The 14th annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots toy drive was held outside of the Realty Executives office in Newhall on Sunday, with special guests, such as Santa, his elves and some U.S. Marines, in attendance.

Founded in 1947 by a Marine, Toys for Tots began in Los Angeles County and was launched as a national campaign the following year.

“When I got out of the Marine Corps, I end up (collecting) one box (of toys),” co-organizer Albert Rodriguez said, adding that that box of about 30 toys was extremely exciting for him. “Then as time went by, a lot of people kept pushing me, saying, ‘We could do more,’ … and now last year we actually (collected) 91 (toys).”

“It just keeps getting progressively more and more each year,” added co-organizer Stephanie Danyluk. “The rain couldn’t put a damper on it … some came all the way from L.A.”

Kilolo, a 5 year old pit bull mastiff, kisses volunteer Brandon Schreiner, a private first class in the Santa Clarita Valley Young Marines, at the 14th annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots toy drive at Realty Executives in Newhall on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Gilbert Bernal/The Signal

In the holiday spirit, community members were invited to attend the drive, where the toys donated will be given to less fortunate children to ensure that each one has something to open on Christmas.

“All the toys stay local, and now any local people that need toys (can get them),” Rodriguez said.

In fact, Rodriguez and Danyluk worked with Toys for Tots coordinator Karen Davis to help create a division specifically for the local area in recent years. Now, the toys collected at the drive are expected to be distributed to children in the Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope Valley before Christmas.

“We already packed up five or six bags (of toys) already, so I’m excited,” Rodriguez added. “We do it for the kids.”

Santa Claus and his little helper ask children what they want for Christmas at the 14th annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots toy drive at Realty Executives in Newhall on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Gilbert Bernal/The Signal

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