Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

September 25, 2009

Toys for Tots

Gates honored for taking toys seriously

VALDOSTA — John Gates, region coordinator for Valdosta’s annual Toys for Tots campaign, was recently awarded the region II Coordinator of the Year Award and Founders Medallion by the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Foundation.

Gates was selected from among 180 competing local campaigns.

Gates received a letter on Sept. 18 from Lt. Gen. Pete Osman, president and chief executive officer of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, thanking him for a job well done. According to the letter, Gates conducted his campaign “in an exemplary fashion.”

The letter goes on to state: “Your campaign brought the joy of Christmas and a message of hope to a record number of needy children throughout the Valdosta ... area. This is an accomplishment you can look upon with great pride.”

In addition to the two awards, Gates was invited to lunch with Osman in the Maple Room of the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, six miles south of downtown Washington, D.C.

“It’s not every day you get to have lunch with the general,” he said.

Gates said his campaign served approximately 84,321 kids in region II, which includes seven states and Puerto Rico. Only four regions competed for the 2008 award, but a fifth region has since been added. Gates said he is humbled by the award.

“If it weren’t for all the communities I work with, I could not have received the awards. I received them on behalf of every donor out there. It’s not me. An individual can’t do this program.”

Gates explained a little of the history behind the Toys for Tots Foundation.

“Major Hendricks started Toys For Tots in 1947,” he said. “In 1947 his wife made a Raggedy Ann doll and also the clothes to go on it. She gave it to Bill who was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and told him to go downtown and find a charitable organization that would give the doll to a child who would not have a Christmas otherwise. So he went down and he looked and looked, but he couldn’t find one. So he came back and told his wife, and she told him, ‘Well, start one.’ So he did.”

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