The U.S. Marine Corps program Toys for Tots managed to amass a total of 11,000 toys in both Guam and the CNMI last December. Of that number, a total of 5,000 toys were distributed in the CNMI. The wild success of the program was recognized at the recent Saipan of Chamber general membership meeting, during which the U.S. Marine Corps thanked businesses and community partners in the CNMI for making it a tremendous success.
“…On Tinian and Rota, we partnered with the mayors and on Rota, every single kid received two toys this year which is a big deal because there’s no toy store on Rota,” said U.S. Marine Corps communications strategy and operations officer Capt. Brett Lazaroff.
“We really cannot do the program without the businesses and all the places that we have toy collection spots. All these local businesses that have become Toys for Tots partners through the Chamber helped us collect toys at their location,” he added.
Toys for Tots has been spreading cheer in the CNMI each Christmas for the last four years and it has been partnering with the Saipan Young Professionals, a committee under the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, on this project. The decision to bring the toys program to the CNMI was made soon after a Marine Corps mission on Saipan following the devastation of Typhoon Soudelor in 2015.
Lazaroff said that their partners in the CNMI have been committed to promoting toy contributions and raising awareness about the program. “The community feeds into the program and it really just benefits every child that we can reach so everyone can really get a toy at Christmas and get that holiday spirit…,” he added.
“The Saipan Young Professionals and the Chamber are our partners leading the local initiative. …It is really a lot of hard work and coordination. The work of our distribution partners like [Karidat Social Services] and Salvation Army are of equal importance,” he added.
For 2020, Lazaroff said that one of their goals is to collect more toys and reach more children. “The more joy we give, the more the Christmas spirit is felt in every home. …Like every year, we plan to start again in October and distribute toys right before Christmas.”