Air Evac collects toys

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

MCLB-ALBANY, Ga. -- It looks like many needy families in Albany will have a happy holiday season after all.

The Air Evac Lifeteam performed a training exercise along with base emergency personnel and a Toys for Tots drop-off Thursday afternoon at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany.

This year's Toys for Tots campaign was launched Oct. 21. Two weeks ago, those coordinating the drive made an appeal for additional donations. At that point, collections were at 20 percent of what they were the same time last year.

Now, thanks to various community organizations, it looks like the drive will meet its goal.

"We are almost at 4,000," said 1st Sgt. James Watson, the effort's regional coordinator, Thursday about the number of toys. "We are right where we wanted to be. The community stepped forward and responded well.

"The incredible support we had has been fantastic."

The Air Evac helicopter was piloted by Don Heironimus, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and former Toys for Tots spokesman and regional coordinator.

"(The toys) were purchased by my staff and crew," Heironimus said. "Every year, we have a fund we can use and we chose Toys for Tots.

"It's a very fulfilling endeavor. I think it's a great program."

The toys were flown to the installation from Air Evac's base in Cordele.

This was the first time the air medical service team had done this kind of delivery, and Heironimus is enthusiastic about doing it again.

"I hope to make this an annual event," he said. "I hope to be back again."

Among those to greet Air Evac upon the helicopter's arrival was Col.

Terry Williams, commanding officer of MCLB-Albany.

"Toys for Tots is a great outreach to the community," Williams said. "The fact that they (Air Evac) decided to do this on their own is fantastic. Every little bit helps."

Today is the last day to donate to Toys for Tots. Collection bins are available at various locations in Albany. Donations will be distributed throughout the day Saturday at a designated point in downtown Albany.

Toys for Tots is the largest Department of Defense outreach program. It serves as an avenue for the U.S. Marine Corps, charity organizations and the community to provide toys for underprivileged children.

To date, the cause has distributed more than 400 million toys to roughly 190 million children.