By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., American Forces Press Service
JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, Washington, D.C. – First Lady Michelle Obama joined forces with Toys for Tots volunteers and Marines to sort through toys donated from the White House staff.
“This is my third year doing this and every year, truly, I look forward to coming by and seeing folks come together to make the holidays just a little bit brighter for their neighbors,” Obama said.
The first lady shared a story of the origins of the Toys for Tots program noting the importance of knowing its tradition.
“It’s been going on for more than 60 years, and it started with a simple idea,” she said. “It was a Marine’s wife who fashioned a handmade doll, and then asked her husband to donate that doll to children in need for the holidays.”
But that Marine couldn’t find a place to donate the doll, because no such organization existed at that time, the first lady said.
“So this couple decided to do something about it. And that’s really what military families do,” she said.
Obama lauded people that volunteer their time to work with Toys for Tots.
“We couldn’t do it without all of the volunteers, all of the donors who work so hard during the holiday season,” the first lady said. “It takes people who take time out of their own families, time to come, shop, sort toys, make sure things get out.
“I mean, this doesn’t happen automatically; it happens because people give up time — precious time with their families to make this happen,” she continued. “So this wouldn’t be possible without all of the volunteers.”
The first lady also cited military families across the country as the reason why she and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, started the “Joining Forces” program.
“[It] is our major campaign to rally all Americans to honor, recognize, and support our veterans and military families,” Obama said. “And we’ve had wonderful success with this program, and it hasn’t been difficult at all.
“People have been stepping up in ways big and small,” she continued. “Businesses [are] making a point to hire veterans and military spouses; local schools [are] partnering to reach out to military kids.”
Obama said “America is behind our families” because of efforts like the Toys for Toys program.
“It has been a true honor and a gift for me to get to know many of these families and to be able to champion your work to the rest of the country,” she said. “And Toys for Tots is just another one of those examples, and that’s why it’s so important for me to be involved this year, and to make sure that the White House is involved.”
Obama noted the toys the group planned to sort were collected from the White House staff.
“We had a 27-percent increase from last year,” she said. “That’s good, but we can do more. We will be doing more next year … we’re doing our part.”
The first lady took time to express her gratitude to all of the country’s troops and their families for their service and sacrifices.
“I want to extend a very big thank you to all of you, especially all of our troops and all of our military families who have led this effort this year, and who lead it every year,” she said.
“You all have given so much to our country … and then you keep giving more to your neighbors and the broader community,” Obama said. “And it is truly inspiring.”