Toys for Tots - A Short History

60 years of making holiday magic


Since its inception 60 years ago, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program has distributed more than 313 million toys to 151 million children. In addition, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has supplemented the collection of local campaigns over a 13-year life, providing more than 47.4 million toys valued at $243 million, plus promotion and support materials valued at $2.5 million.

Toys for Tots began in 1947 when Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR, and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. The idea came from Bill’s wife, Diane.  In the fall of 1947, Diane handcrafted a Raggedy Ann doll and asked Bill to deliver the doll to an organization, which would give it to a needy child at Christmas. When Bill determined that no agency existed, Diane told Bill that he should start one. He did.

The 1947 campaign was so successful that the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948 and expanded it into a nationwide campaign. That year, Marine Corps Reserve units across the nation conducted Toys for Tots campaigns in each community in which a Marine Reserve Center was located.

Marines have conducted successful nationwide campaigns at Christmas each year since 1948. The initial objective that remains the hallmark of the program today is to “bring the joy of Christmas to America’s needy children”.

Bill Hendricks, a Marine Reservists on weekends, was, in civilian life, the director of public relations for Warner Brothers Studio. This enabled him to convince a vast array of celebrities to support Toys for Tots. In 1948, Walt Disney designed the Toys for Tots logo, which the organization still uses today. Disney also designed the first Toys for Tots poster used to promote the nationwide program.

Celebrities to help support the program over the years include Nat “King” Cole, Peggy Lee, Vic Damone, Bob Hope, John Wayne, Doris Day, Lorrie Morgan, Tim Allen, Kenny Rogers, Billy Ray Cyrus and many more.

The 2003 Toys for Tots campaign was the most successful campaign in the 56-year history of the program. Marines distributed 15 million toys to 6.5 million needy children. Local campaigns were conducted in 456 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, the most extensive coverage ever. For more information for Toys for Tots, visit