It is once again that time of year when many of us visit family and friends to share gifts and reflect upon what the true meaning of Christmas is to those of us who celebrate it. It is also a painful and unfortunate fact that many are much less fortunate than some of us and are financially unable to buy and receive gifts around this time of year(or any other). A yearly tradition that helps address this need is run by the “Marine Toys for Tots Foundation”. It is the organization’s mission to collect and distribute toys to needy children nationwide and has done so for over 62 years!
The first toy drive occurred in 1947 and was organized by Colonel William Hendricks who ran with an idea suggested by his wife, Diane who handmade a toy and asked her husband to donate to an organization that hands out toys to less fortunate children. The good Colonel discovered that such an organization did not exist and he decided to start an organization that existed solely to hand out toys to needy children. The following year in 1948, the Marine Corps expanded the organization to encompass the entire nation.
Jason Dube, Reyna Young and Empire Comics’ owner, Ben Schwartz organized and created a unique twist to the annual Toys for Tots drive for the Sacramento, California. They created an auction event that was also being broadcast live to the internet in which comic book artist drew characters that would then be put up for auction. Dube also manned the internet cam and worked feverishly to capture different angles so as to create further excitement online for the bidders who were viewing the live webcam event. Reyna Young was the online commentator and host for the event and it is role she is quite familiar with because she is better known as “Miss Misery” and is a horror host of note. Bidders were also allowed to make character requests for which the artist were happily eager to fulfill as to enable a continuing flow of charity funds to continue to the ultimate goal.
On hand and representing the Marines was the affable and ever so humble, Lance Corporal Samson Caico who was on loan from MTM Company in Sacramento. The Lance Corporal represented the Corps admirably with his clipped and polite attitude that excellently conveyed the famous Marines poise. He also took time to interact with the curious and comic shop patrons alike who had stopped to witness the charitable event.
In front of the Empire Comic store was the always popular cars of Team LoveHATE whose founders, Jazel Gonzalez, Steve Crain and Rob Bolster contributed high quality vinyl stickers with their team logos for the auction also. The rest of the team was also on hand to answer questions and sometimes, dance to anime hits all in the name of charity.
There was true excitement throughout the day as the artists supported each other in their efforts and several received the opportunity to speak about and display their work to an untold amount of internet participants that were constantly rewarding them with donations. As the day progressed, each donation was received with enthusiastic rounds of applause led by the ever energetic artist and business owner, Jason Dube who after that day’s performance may seriously want to consider another career as a motivational speaker!
The charity drive proved to be an unqualified success with a sizable amount of toys that were collected. The money contributed by the bidders totaled to an incredible $1,177.00 with the retail giant, Kohl’s contributing a generous amount that totaled $500.00.
It is through examples set by Jason Dube, Reyna Young, Ben Schwartz, Lance Corporal Samson Caico, Team LoveHATE and the artists gathered at the store that inspire many of us to try to emulate their admirably selfless venture. It is simply that we attempt to do thus that we can also be touched and possibly embody the spirit of what Christmas is truly meant to be!