KINGMAN - Every year, parents across the world go through the sometimes arduous effort of trying to find the perfect Christmas toy for their child.
Now imagine the agony of parents who have to look in the eyes of their children on Christmas morning and tell them that Santa Claus didn't have the money to get them any toys this year.
A number of charities provide families in need with food and clothing for the holidays, but the Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program is one of the only programs dedicated to seeing that children get at least one package under the tree, according to Don Olin, the coordinator for the Kingman program.
Kingman's Marine Corps League started putting out its collections boxes for this year's toy run last week.
"We do it because there's a need," Olin said. "For the last three years, we've given out toys to around 2,500 kids each year. We served around 700 families last year."
Families with children up to 15 years old are eligible to sign up for the program, he said. All they have to do is call (928) 718-8697. There are no income requirements.
"We don't discriminate. If you feel you have the need, then call," Olin said. "With the way we do it, we always seem to have enough toys."
The league already has 20 to 30 families signed up, he said. The number of people calling usually explodes around Thanksgiving. They expect to have at least 700 families in the program by Christmas Eve, Olin said.
"We try to get started early, but we're always here until Christmas Eve," Olin said with a smile. And every year the Kingman community has come through with enough toys, he said.
Unfortunately, the group doesn't get to see the delighted looks on the kids faces when they open their toys on Christmas.
"We ask that parents come to our office to pick up the toys and not bring their children with them," Olin said. "We tried delivering them to the various homes, but we had a number of people we couldn't find because they had moved."
The organization only accepts new, unwrapped toys, games, puzzles and stocking stuffers, Olin said.
"We're specifically looking for toys. Stuffed animals are nice, but we really want to give them something that they can put together and play with," he said. "The hardest age group for us to fill is the 12- to 15-year-olds, especially the girls."
He recommends donations of sporting goods for the boys and beauty products such as hairdryers and curling irons for the girls in those age groups.
"It's a hard age group to buy for," Olin said.
The toys can be dropped off in any of the Toys for Tots boxes that are scattered among community businesses during the holidays.
"Right now we've got boxes at all of the major car dealers, most of the local banks, at most of the businesses at the (Kingman Airport and Industrial Park), at the Arizona State Prison-Kingman and at Anytime Fitness on Stockton Hill Road," he said. "We'll be putting more boxes out at most of the major retail stores, like Walmart, in the next few weeks."
Residents interested in donating money to the organization can do so online at www.toysfortots.org, Olin said. Just make sure to click on the "Find a local campaign office" menu on the main webpage and choose Arizona, then choose Kingman. That way the funds will go directly to the Kingman operation.
If you click on the "Donations" tab near the top of the page, your donation will go to the Toys for Tots national headquarters instead of directly to the Kingman office, he said.
The donations are tax-deductible.
Donations of toys and money can also be dropped off at the Kingman Toys for Tots Office at 1900 Northern Ave. It's behind the Classy Chassis car wash.
Los Angeles Marine Corps Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks started the program in 1947. The story goes that his wife made a doll and told him to find a local organization that donated toys to children for Christmas, Olin said.
"When he couldn't find any, he started his own," he said.
Hendricks collected around 5,000 toys in the first year of the program, according to the Toys for Tots website. The Marine Corps found out about it and adopted the program, taking it to Marine Corps reserve units across the nation in 1948. The program expanded to the Marine Corps Leagues in 1996. It came to Kingman in 1997.
The organization has handed out more than 418 million toys nationwide since 1947.