Marine Corps Reserve Master Sgt. Ryan Leach has a message for whoever broke into the Toys for Tots distribution building and stole items intended for needy kids this Christmas.
“Just bring them back,” he said. “Put them on the steps, no questions asked. We’d just like to get them back and make sure these toys get to the kids they’re intended for.”
Someone entered the building off Old Montgomery Highway Monday night and left with several remote-controlled helicopters from a stack of gifts intended for 11- to 12-year-old boys.
Sponsored by the Alabama Marine Corps Foundation, Toys For Tots has served families in Tuscaloosa, Greene, Hale and Pickens counties for 10 years.
Toys for Tots coordinator Janice Looney said a volunteer noticed the missing toys Tuesday morning. She said most toy donations are for younger children, so the organization had used cash to buy the helicopters for the older boy group.
“It’s so hard to buy for that age, and that was the splurge,” she said.
Leach said the older group of 10- to 12-year-olds and the youngest group of newborn to 2-year-olds are the ones that receive the fewest toy donations. There are around 90 donation boxes at locations such as Tuscaloosa City Hall, all libraries on the University of Alabama campus, Walmart and Toys R Us in Tuscaloosa and Northport where people can leave donations, and he suggested that anyone who wants to donate look at suggested items on the national Toys for Tots website.
The Tuscaloosa Toys For Tots group will help 960 families this year with more than 2,000 children. Families have already filled out applications with their children’s ages and needs, and volunteers have been busy stuffing bags in preparation for the pick-up dates on Dec. 15, Dec. 18 and Dec. 19.
Tables filled with board games, make-up and toiletry items, puzzles, Legos and other popular toys filled the distribution center Tuesday. Volunteers have been working since mid-October to coordinate gifts.
“It sends a message of hope to a kid who may not have a Christmas or get a toy on Christmas morning any other way. It gives them a sense of hope that somebody cares,” Leach said of the program. “That message of hope is essential to our communities.”
Tuscaloosa Police are investigating the burglary. Anyone with information is asked to contact CrimeStoppers at 205-752-STOP (7867).
“You hate to think that people of good will have given toys to the Marines to make sure we get them to the kids, and that someone would come here and try to take toys from kids around Christmas,” Leach said.
But he has no doubt the community will make sure no kids go without this year.
“We’re hopeful we can turn a bad thing into something good and get the word out that we’re still accepting donations,” he said. “We’re sure the community will help us ensure that all these kids have a good Christmas.”
(c)2017 The Tuscaloosa News, Ala. — www.tuscaloosanews.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.