Toys for Tots was founded in 1947 by Major Bill Hendricks of the US Marine Corps and was quite different from today’s organization. The Toys for Tots mission has always stayed the same — to provide holiday toys to families in need — while the rest of the organization has evolved. In 1947 Toys for Tots was not directly affiliated with the U.S. Marines nor was it country wide. Originally, Toy for Tots only encompassed the greater Los Angeles California area. Unlike today’s millions of yearly donated toys, about 5,000 new unwrapped toys were donated in 1947. Even though the first toy donated was not a Mickey Mouse plush (it was a baby doll), Walt Disney and his company have a long legacy with Toys for Tots that continues til this day.
1948 was a very important year for Toys for Tots. First, the U.S. Marine Corps officially adopted the program and worked towards expanding the toy drive’s reach from one community in California to the whole nation. Secondly, Walt Disney became actively involved in supporting the charity. Touted as one of the founding sponsors of Toys for Tots, Walt Disney personally supervised the making of the charity’s logo. Utilizing the talent found within The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney and his artists created the now familiar red cartoon train that is still in use.
Throughout the years, Walt Disney continued to utilize his available resources to help the Toys for Tots message reach millions of US citizens. During the holiday session, Walt Disney took to the airwaves and often featured Toys for Tots on his weekly television show Disneyland. Once Disneyland was built and open, the theme park became a premier location to drop off new and unwrapped toys. Multiple boxes were located throughout the themed lands to make it easier for guests to deposit the toys. This tradition continues to this day and box locations and Disney’s affiliation with Toys for Tots are proudly announced on multiple Disney media platforms.
You can donate to Toys for Tots or learn how else you can help one of Walt’s favorite charities by visiting ToysforTots.org.