Human Interest

The goal is pretty simple — to ensure that every child has something waiting for him or her under the tree on Christmas morning.

For nearly 70 years that’s been the driving force behind the popular Toys For Tots program, which is administered by the Marine Corps Reserve.

It’s never too early to start the toy drive as evident by a fundraising dinner at Sedona Winds in the Village of Oak Creek on Sunday, Nov. 6. The event asked attendees to either donate $20 a person or bring in new, unwrapped toys of equal or greater value.

“We started this dinner eight years ago because our residents wanted to give back to the community,” said Julie Robins, activity director for Sedona Winds. “We take some of the residents shopping for toys with the money we raise through the dinner. They have a great time buying toys for the kids and reminiscing about the toys they had when they were young and how much the toys have changed compared to today.”

She said the dinner brings in about $600 worth of toys and another $600 to $1,000 in cash — some of which is donated by the residents themselves.

According to its website, Toys for Tots got its start in 1947 in Los Angeles. At that time, more than 5,000 toys were collected, the first of which was a handmade doll. The following year, the U.S. Marine Corps took over the program and has overseen it ever since. That next year, Walt Disney designed the now famous Toys for Tots train logo and created the first national Toys for Tots poster. Today, more than 15 million toys are distributed to children annually.

For years, Lloyd Dellacourt has played a big part in the distribution of toys to children of the area. And while he is a member of the Marine Corps Reserve, he dons a different outfit around this time of the year. The fit, 82-year-old admitted that he has to add a little extra padding to his outfit but he hasn’t gotten any complaints, especially from the residents of Sedona Winds who he hands out gifts to each year.

“When you put the suit on, you become Santa,” he said with a wide grin. “I’ve been playing Santa here and other locations in town for years. Sometimes you have to be careful what you say to the children because some are a little scared of Santa. But with the older people, they have a ball.”

He went on to say, “Toys for Tots is such a worthwhile program because for some children, these are the only toys they get. That’s why I’m happy to be part of it.”

Dellacourt said his favorite Santa story came a few years ago at Tlaquepaque. He said a young girl, maybe 4 or 5, came up to him and asked if he was the real Santa.

“I asked her, ‘What do you think,’” he said. “She said ‘yes you are’ and came and gave me a big hug. The next day I saw her at another event and said hello to her along with her name. She got so excited that she ran back to her mother yelling, ‘He knows me. He knows my name.’ That was a very special moment.”

Heading up Sedona’s Toys For Tots effort for several years has been Leonard and Karen Barrow, both of whom are retired Sedona teachers and members of the Marine Corps Reserve.

“There’s a lot more need in Sedona than people may realize,” Karen said. “In the Sedona area alone we give toys to about 700 kids. That’s why it makes us feel good being able to help these families.”

Leonard agreed and said, “We’ve always worked with kids, so this comes natural to us.”

The Marine Corps Reserve works with the Sedona Community Food Bank, area churches, schools and other organizations to gather names of children — from birth to 14 years of age — wishing to receive gifts. In all, there are drop-off boxes at 50 locations in Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek. Many are already in place and will be there until Tuesday, Dec. 13. The reason for the somewhat early ending is because the gifts must be distributed to parents by the time schools go on Christmas break. Students must first qualify as being in need before being placed on the gift list. This is often done through the school based on those students who receive reduced cost or free lunches.

The Barrows said each child receives two gifts, stocking stuffers and a book. They did say that the majority of donated gifts are for the younger children, which is why they always request more for those 10 to 14 years of age.

People can make a donation to Sedona Toys for Tots or fill out the Family Toys Request form at


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