Page 4 - MidWeek Kauai - Nov 24, 2021
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   Volunteers with the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots O‘ahu campaign are eager to distribute their goodies to the less fortunate. They are (from left) Christina Bland and husband 1st Sgt. Jeremy Bland, local coordinator GySgt. Jonathan Ibarra, Sgt. Nathan Stewart and wife Clairece Stewart, and Cpl. Jose Polancolopez.
             The tale of Toys for Tots O‘ahu never gets old with each holiday season, when thousands of toys and stocking stuffers are collected and given away to many of Hawai‘i’s less-fortunate keiki.
ith the holiday season just around the corner, the U.S. Marines are
The mission is simple: Collect new unwrapped toys and deliver hope and joy to less fortunate chil- dren at Christmas. The operation, though, is a little more complex. It requires a lot of planning, count- ing, sorting and coordinating, and, of course, the help of many volun- teers and generous donors.
Kaua‘i Fire Department station through Dec. 4.
“I remember last year ... a company dropped off a couple of bicycles,” recalls Ibarra. “I was extremely impressed with how the community got involved. There’s a lot of good-hearted people out there that will go and buy larger toys that are a little more expensive.
the instances I remember that was very impactful to me and why I con- tinue to do it this year.”
 once again going beyond the call of duty with their annual Toys for Tots program.
“There’s never enough toys to give out,” says GySgt. Jonathan Ibarra, volunteer local coordinator of Toys for Tots O‘ahu for the sec- ond consecutive year. “We accept toys for all ages. The biggest gap in toys collected is from our birth to 2 years old age group. Also, the 11 years-plus, a lot of teenagers get forgotten.”
Originally from Texas, Ibarra moved to Hawai‘i in May 2019, and is currently working as a para- chute safety officer. Amid the pan- demic, he was tasked with coor- dinating last year’s Toys for Tots O‘ahu program, and successfully distributed 21,661 toys, stocking stuffers and books to 16,301 keiki.
This year’s Toys for Tots Kaua‘i campaign kicked off Oct. 1, and donations can be dropped off at Kaua‘i Veterans Center at 3215 Kāpule Hwy. in Līhu‘e (see page 5 for dates and times), or at any
Local nonprofits and families experiencing hardship can sub- mit a toy request form at kauai-hi. by Nov. 30 (late requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis). Upon approv- al, they will then be assigned to a distribution event to pick up their toys.
“During one of the distribution events, there was a family with this little girl. I randomly got one of those bicycles and gave it to her and she lit up with happiness. I don’t think she was expecting to even know that she was going to receive toys for Christmas, so when she re- ceived the bicycle, which I’m sure she was extremely happy about, it made me happy. I am a father of two and seeing my children happy makes me happy. That was one of
“I decided to take it upon myself to volunteer again this year since I already had a little bit of experi- ence from last year,” says Ibarra, noting he has seven more months in Hawai‘i before his next rotation. “During COVID, it was definitely extremely challenging. All I want-

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