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History of Toys for Tots



Toys for Tots began in 1947 when Major Bill Hendricks, United States Marine Corps Reserve and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. The idea came from Bill's wife, Diane. In the fall of 1947, Diane handcrafted a Raggedy Ann doll and asked Bill to deliver the doll to an organization, which would give it to a needy child at Christmas. When Bill determined that no agency existed, Diane told Bill that he should start one. He did. The 1947 pilot project was so successful that the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948 and expanded it into a nationwide campaign. That year, Marine Corps Reserve units across the nation conducted Toys for Tots campaigns in each community in which a Marine Reserve Center was located. Marines have conducted successful nationwide campaigns at Christmas each year since 1948.


Over the 58 years of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program, Marines have distributed more than 351 million toys for 166 million needy children. This charitable endeavor has made U.S. Marines the unchallenged leaders in looking after needy children at Christmas. Over its 15 year life span, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has supplemented local toy collections with more than 64.5 million toys valued at more than $344 million; plus has provided promotion and support materials valued at over $3.9 million.


During the 2005 Toys for Tots Campaign, local Toys for Tots Coordinators distributed 18.5 million toys to 7.5 million needy children. Concurrently, local campaigns were conducted in 516 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico - the most extensive coverage ever. Although the number of toys distributed was fewer than the 2004 campaign, local coordinators reached 7.5, million children; hence the 2005 and 2004 campaigns are the two most successful campaigns in the history of Toys for Tots.


  • Ranked # 289 in 2001 "Philanthropy 400"
  • Ranked #267 in 2002 “Philanthropy 400”
  • Ranked #341 in 2003 “Philanthropy 400”
  • Ranked #316 in 2004 "Philanthropy 400"
  • Ranked # 66 in 2005 "Philanthropy 400"
  • DMA Nonprofit Federation named Marine Toys for Tots Foundation “Outstanding Nonprofit Organization of the Year” for 2003
  • Reader’s Digest, in the November 2003 edition, named “America’s Best Charities” in 12 categories. Marine Toys for Tots Foundation was named “Best Children’s Charity.”
  • Starburst ranked the Foundation website #9 of the “Top 100 Toy Websites” in 2003.
  • Marine Toys for Tots Foundation included as one of the ten (10) charities on the 2003 Forbes “Gold-Star” list.
  • Awarded Charity Navigators's Highest 4-Star Rating. (2005-2006)
  • Unqualified opinions on Audited Financial Statements (1994-2005)
  • Average Program to support service expense ratio (1994-2005): 96:4
  • Program to Support Service Expense ratio (2005): 98:2