A 5-kilometer run that benefits the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program kicked off the annual toy drive under sunny skies Nov. 13, with 274 registered runners plus an additional 50-60 more Marines from the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) and NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Yokosuka participating aboard Yokosuka Naval Base.
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Santa Claus kicks of the 5K Run Toys for Tots Overseas Program.
All race participants were encouraged to bring an unwrapped, new toy, with the proceeds going to the Toys for Tots program.
The siren from one of the Commander Navy Region Japan (CNFJ) fire trucks brought the multiple groups of runners from various commands and organizations together to the starting line, while a great long blast from the truck sent the participants along their designated course, which began and ended just outside of Purdy Gym.
“It is the perfect event for starting off the holiday season,” said Donna Carter, Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) race coordinator, adding that this was her third year coordinating race events at Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), and the Toys for Tots Run is one of her favorite events knowing the holiday toy drive, sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps, does not end with the 5K, it continues to give back directly to the local community and to those who are in need during this time of the year.
At the completion of the race, USS Fitzgerald
(DDG-62) Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Jonathan Schmitz, took a few extra minutes to thank his crew for their participation in the race and then presented NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka’s Sgt. Cesar Flores with a large box of unwrapped toys collected aboard the forward-deployed Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer home ported at Yokosuka Naval Base.
Afterwards, the top three overall finishers received awards from CFAY MWR personnel, and the Marines presented Cornish game hens, hams and the traditional Thanksgiving turkeys to the top finishers in various categories.
Once the toys are collected, the Marines check with the base Chaplain’s and other agencies for names of needy children and organizations.
“The annual race is continuing a tradition that attracts people of all ages and fitness levels because people just love the challenge to run as well as giving back to the community,” said Ray Denny, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Command Evaluation Director and Resident Santa Claus.
Denny, who is a retired Master Chief Petty Officer and career logistician, has been donning his red suit for many years and assisting NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka in getting as many gifts as possible out to children in need across the commands entire area of responsibility.
“Over the years, this race kicks off the Toys for Tots drive and the community has collected thousands of toys during the many years I have been their local Santa,” Denny explained. “As Santa, I get to see the smiles and expressions of joy on the kids faces at various hospitals, children’s homes and orphanages, but the people of the community are the ones that make this all possible and the support we receive is amazing.”
"We're going to take these toys, count them, sort them and get them distributed out to the agencies that can help those families and organizations that need these toys,” explained Gunnery Sgt. Allan Cayabyab, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Marine Liaison Detachment senior noncommissioned officer in charge (SNCOIC).
FAST Company and NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Marines will be collecting toys at various Navy Exchange locations in the region, organizing bags of donations into a secure storage area and arranging staging areas for toy pick up to local organizations. The Marines volunteer their time to stand by donation boxes and personally thank the community for their help and support.
According to the Marine's Toys for Tots coordinators, the organization's goal is to deliver a new toy and a message of hope during the holiday season. In recent years, the local drive has collected tens of thousands of toys for not just the local community but for other Asian countries such as South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia. In 2011 and 2012, many of the toys were sent to the Tohoku Region of Japan who were rebuilding from the March 2011 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and this year the Marines plan to send hundreds of toys to children affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Story by Sky Laron; NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka Director of Corporate Communications