HOUSTON – Saturday was the last day of pickup for Toys for Tots Houston, an even led by U.S. Marines with the help of the Houston Children's Charity that aims to help 20,000 children over the holidays.
Organizers said this massive effort is only possible because of the generosity of others. Through the community, sponsors and donors, volunteers and Marines collected more than 80,000 toys to distribute the weekend before Christmas.
"Today is all about the children, and today we've got the Marines, Houston Children's Charity and over 1,000 volunteers," Robert Ogle, with the Houston Children's Charity, said.
Thousands of hands helped 7,000 families who were looking to received holiday gifts for their children. The massive toy distribution happened over a two-day period at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.
"I know how important Christmas is. I've always loved it, and you know that magic that you see on a child's face is well worth it," said Gunnery Sgt. Herman Crawford, who volunteered to lead the drive.
Crawford joined the Marines when he was 18 years old and continues to give back.
"There was a time when I was a child getting Toys for Tots," Crawford said.
The event took more than six months of planning.
"When I came in this morning, the line was wrapped around the building. Everyone's so excited," said Casey Preston, a volunteer.
Crawford and a few Marines picked up more than 800 boxes of toys for the event to help mothers like Lorena Martinez whose 3-year-old son will have a birthday on Christmas.
"This (bear is) going to Arturo Martinez. He turns 4 years old," Martinez said. "It's a blessing. They help the most (needy). Sometimes we don't have the money to bless our kids, so somebody else helps."
"Some of us need help, and it's just amazing that we can get it," Shanette Jones, a recipient, said.
Jones said she cannot wait to give a new bike to her 9-year-old daughter.
"I can't wait to hear, 'Oh mom! That's what I wanted,'" Jones laughed.
No toy will go to waste. Any toy that is not picked up will be redistributed to the community.