Marines seek more Toys for Tots donors

PHILADELPHIA - December 15, 2011

Actually, they're in need of a lot of toys, because donations are down significantly this year.

The impact could be felt at the William Penn School District in Landowne on Thursday. More than 350 families in the district have registered with Toy for Tots - for more than 850 kids to receive toys.

"We had a lot more families sign up this year, more than double what we had last year," said Nikol Heilman of the William Penn School District in Lansdowne.

"Parents started arriving at 7:30 this morning, even though we advertised we'd open at 12," said Frank Bruno, the director of pupil services.

Some of the district's elementary students joined their parents on Thursday - teacher conferences gave them a day off from school.

Inside were bundles of toys - but they're not as large as they were last year.

"We noticed that when we started putting everything out that the bags seemed a lot smaller," said Heilman.

Still, those who lined up on Thursday were grateful for even one gift.

"My son is autistic and I'm finding it hard to make ends meet," said Catherine Hinkle of Lansdowne.

At last count in our area, Toys for Tots has only 25,000 donated toys compared to 113,000 at this time last year.

Upon hearing of the program's plight, Independence Blue Cross launched a Toy Match Challenge.

"We're going to donate 1,000 toys immediately and we're going to put a tent next to our building. There, people can drop off toys and we'll match the first 2,500," said Dan Hilferty, CEO of Independence Blue Cross.

Independence Blue Cross was also reaching out to CEOs across the region.

"The Marine Corps has never let us down. It's time for us to step up so that every child has a toy for Christmas Day.

To find a location where you can drop off toys, visit the Toys for Tots website.

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