Origin and Evolution of Toys for Tots Program
Toys for Tots began in 1947 as the brain child of Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks. Actually it was his wife, Diane, who was the real inspiration. She had a few handcrafted dolls and asked Bill to deliver them to an agency that supports children in need.
When Bill reported back to his wife that he could not find such an organization, she instructed him to “start one!”. Maj Hendricks and the Marines in his reserve unit in LA collected and distributed 5,000 toys in 1947.
Seeing such successful community engagement in 1947, the Commandant directed all Marine Reserve Sites to implement a TFT campaign transforming it into a national community action program in 1948.
Bill Hendrick’s civilian job was Director of Public Relations at Warner Brothers Studios. He was friends with many celebrities who he asked to help support the newly created Marine Toys for Tots Program. As a personal friend and as a favor to Bill, Walt Disney designed the first Toys for Tots poster which included a miniature three-car train that was subsequently adopted as the Toys for Tots logo.
The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, an IRS recognized 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit charity, was established in 1991 at the behest of the Marine Corps to help run and support the Marine Toys for Tots Program.
The Foundation raises funds, purchases toys, provides promotional and support materials, manages all funds raised and donated, solicits corporate support, educates the public, and handles day-to-day operations.
Presently, the Marine Toys for Tots Program distributes an average of 18 million toys to 7 million less fortunate children annually.