By Lisa Detres
Toys for Tots in Acton took on a new look this year headed by Sandra Beck, Vicky Monahan and Melanie Buxkemper. In a joint effort between the United States Marine Corps Reserve, the Lions Club, Jack’s Angels Foundation, Meadowlark Elementary, High Desert Middle School and Vasquez High School, the combined groups collected over fifteen hundred toys for local needy children as the middle school MPR turned into Santa’s Workshop.
“We had an amazing bake sale for ASMO headed by Hilary Blaha, hot drinks and fancy chocolate covered spoons by the HD Booster Club, Popcorn by the PTO and Janet Demeter along with ACE Hardware created the most beautiful angel tree,” said hostess Sandra Beck. I think everyone had a great time and the toys! Oh the glorious toys that ran the length of the stage and back many times!”
The event was opened by Meadowlark 4th grade student Zach Levin leading with the pledge of allegiance along with Aeslin Cameron, Audrey, Brady and Moses Latt. Resident Ginger Balkcom lead the group in a blessing over the troops.
“We pray for our troops who are in intense action right now. For guidance in every step and decision they make in these critical situations,” said Balkcom. “Some of our troops have experienced injuries in their bodies, their minds and hearts. We pray for them and their families and caregivers.” Balkcom’s father, a Chosin Reservoir Survivor in the Korean War, was awarded the Purple Heart.
Vasquez High School students lead by Corinne Mulligan created and collected letter and cards for the troops that were later sent to Operation Gratitude for inclusion in the care packages sent to Troops overseas unable to be home for the holidays.
“Mr. Rowland, my sixth grade teacher, told us to write a letter introducing ourselves and what relationship we had to the military. I wrote that my grandpa was a veteran from the Korean War and how proud of him I am.” said Gus Balkcom. “I also shared some of what my family does over the holidays so the person reading it could feel some holiday spirit from home. I think they would like that.”
High Desert students Nadalee Vasquez, Jackie Roueche, Kassidy Mann and Stormy MacKenzie participating telling the history of women in the military as well as Max Levin, Brandon Schroeder, Brodie Buxkemper and Koa Harris who presented the history of Toys for Tots.
“We did it as part of ASB in Mrs. VanOrnum’s class at High Desert,” explains Levin. “Many of us volunteered to be presenters for the event as well as greeting guests at the door, thanking guests for their contribution and if they served in the military, we thanked them for their service.”
Marines came in full dress and spoke to the Navy Sea Cadets. Representing the USMC-R were Sgt1 Joshua E Pelino, Sgt Samuel Cortes, Pvt Allen Stone and Pvt Michael Brown. They, along with David Latt, producer of the Sharknado movies, awarded Sandra Beck a 30 year Commendation on behalf of Toys for Tots and the United States Marine Corps.
“When people ask me how I got involved in Toys for Tots it was because I raised my hand and said I would help. It was that simple. Thirty years later, this is the manifestation of one small step.” explains Beck. “When I look at the number of student volunteers who took that one small step to make this year’s event happen that impacts thousands of kids, I think what will they do in 30 years. It gives me hope for our great nation’s future.
Sandra Beck & Toys for Tots 2015 for Military Mom Talk Radio