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Toys for Tots event collects gifts for needy kids
KINGSLAND -- Dozens of Marines, sailors and civilians drove their motorcycles to the Kmart parking lot on Ga. 40 in Kingsland Friday to make Christmas a happy one for children whose families can't afford to put much under the tree.

Each rider was required to bring a toy for the annual U.S Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program, which collects new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December.

The toys are distributed as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children.

In return for their gifts, donors were allowed to participate in a group ride to Dave & Buster's in Jacksonville.

Ride organizer John Fenstermacher, a petty officer 1st class at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, suggested the idea as a way to encourage more people to support Toys for Tots. He said they gathered at the Kmart store because it's always been a strong supporter of the program. Customers can donate a toy inside the store, he said.

Managers at Dave & Buster's offered to open 30 minutes early, have the grill ready and provide discounts for games and food, Fenstermacher said.

Even though a sailor came up with the idea for a program associated more with the Marines than the Navy, Marines Sgt. Major Marc Chabot said there was no hesitation from the Marine unit that provides security at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.

"Anytime you can gather gifts for kids in need and have fun doing it, it's a great idea," Chabot said. "We supported it from the command level."

While many people who donate gifts think about the children, Fenstermacher said they're not the only ones who experience the joy of Christmas when there are gifts to open.

"I would like to see the parents' looks when their children get a gift they wouldn't be able to buy," Fenstermacher said. "I'm looking to have this as an annual event. It's a good way for me to meet the community."

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at, on Facebook or at 464-7655.

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