Toys for Tots experiencing new challenges for 2021 donations

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 9:32 PM MST|Updated: Nov. 26, 2021 at 8:53 AM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Every year, Toys for Tots helps spread a little Christmas cheer to families in need across southern Colorado. The organization has been around since 1947 and lets Marines give back to those who need it most.

Russ Miller is the Toys for Tots coordinator for eight counties in southern Colorado and wouldn’t change a thing about his impact.

“The Marine Corps found out about the program in Los Angeles and made it a mission of the Marine Corps reserves nationwide from 1948 on and so we’ve been doing that ever since. Trying to put a smile on the faces of less fortunate children at Christmas time that might otherwise feel forgotten. You know when there’s not a toy under the tree,” says Miller.

Toys for Tots has been getting creative when it comes to making sure spirits are bright during the holidays: having a drive-up version of gift-giving, wearing masks, and making sure toys were quarantined before handing them out to local kids.

But this year there are some new challenges Santa’s elves are running into.

“What we’re worried about this year is just the toys on the shelves. Are there enough toys out there for people to be able to purchase? Is there enough toys on the shelves, are there enough toys on the shelves to actually fill the needs?” says Miller. “With supply chain issues trying to get supplies in, that’s another big issue and like right now. We have truckloads of toys sitting on docks waiting at shipping docks like an Oklahoma; we have a bunch of toys there waiting to come here to Colorado Springs.

Last year more than 27,000 kids were given Christmas gifts in El Paso, Teller and Las Animas counties and more than 11,000 in the Pueblo area.

And with the need growing across El Paso County, and Toys for Tots expanding to help kids in El Paso, Teller, Las Animas, Pueblo and several other counties, toys are in high demand now more than ever.

You can either donate online or at one of the many in-person donation boxes in El Paso and Pueblo counties.

The Colorado Springs Police Department also has donation boxes at every police substation to help local kids. This is their 33rd year of working with Toys for Tots to help bring joy to kids who might have had a tough year.

Each year officers nominate families that might have had a rough time and officers want to show a different side of their job.

“Officers nominate these families; so maybe it was a death in the family or maybe they had a disturbance or call for service. It might’ve probably been the worst day of the family’s life.” says Colorado Springs police Sgt. Jason Newton. “That’s really the best part of this is that all the family saw us maybe in a negative light and now they get to see us in a positive light and we can bring some cheer to them with non-criminal, non-law-enforcement related fun.”

And as we head into the holidays, it’s always important to remember the reason for the season.

“These last two years has been hard on everybody so that is our biggest thing. It’s about helping children and bringing that smile to their face” says Miller.

“Moments like that just really make it worth it and you realize that it’s not about the gift that you’re giving, it’s about making time for them and being present with them and showing that someone truly cares and can help lift their spirits,” says Newton.

11 News asked both Miller and Newton to share their favorite Toys for Tots memory from over the years:

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