Making a difference, Toys for Tots.

GOODFELLOW AFB,Texas -- Christmas morning is finally here. Trees, lights, garland, mistletoe, nativity scenes and music fill the town. It's time to unwrap what Santa brought, or did he?

Hi, how are you doing? We have something for you. ...from her hospital bed the little girl's face slightly startled, lights up. Look honey, they are here to see you. They brought you gifts...says her daddy. With all the energy she can muster, though frail, she slightly pulls herself out of the covers, stretches out her hand and with a smile on her face, eagerly accepts the gifts. One by one she begins to unwrap them and with each toy she unwraps her eyes sparkle and her smile blooms. My wish has come true, she exclaims delightfully, horses....this is what I asked Santa to bring me. Thank you.

Thanks to Toys for Tots and volunteers from the Marine Corps Detachment, who spent their Christmas morning handing out gifts to hospitalized children, the little girl's dreams came true.

According to their website, Toys for Tots is a non-profit public charity whose mission is to provide a tangible sign of hope to economically disadvantaged children at Christmas. They accomplish this by delivering a new toy to less fortunate youngsters that assists them into becoming responsible, productive and patriotic citizens. Their objective is to help the children experience the joy of Christmas. The program plays an active role in the development of one of our nation's most valuable resources-our children.

"This year the program supported almost 5,500 children in the Concho Valley, which was 2,000 more than last year," said Marine Staff Sgt. Timothy Muckey-Quizado, Toys for Tots coordinator, San Angelo. "We offered 3-5 gifts per child which made a significant difference. Through the donations, we broke every record we had set. We had almost 8,000 toys donated," he added.

"Toys for Tots ensures that no child is forgotten during the holidays and inspires hope in the family," Staff Sgt. Muckey-Quizado said. "This is why we hand out the gifts prior to Christmas and unwrapped. This way the family can take the gifts home and say they are from mom and dad, or from Santa. It builds and fosters hopes and beliefs for the young children."

Staff Sgt. Muckey-Quizado said the program is run independently at the local level in each respective area and has been in San Angelo for 14 years.

"If you had the chance to hear just a few of the conversations I have had and read emails from people who are doing everything they can just to keep their bills paid, you would understand the need that's out there," said Staff Sgt. Muckey-Quizado. "I am glad the program is able to help the families. It is nice to know that even though it may seem like you've been forgotten at times....you are not," he added.

Staff Sgt. Muckey-Quizado, recalled an email he received from a father who was one of the beneficiaries

"I appreciate your kindness and understanding to our situation more than words can express. It is so hard and humbling to have to ask for help for your family when you take so much pride in being able to provide for them yourself. You have been blessed to be able to help others during their time of need. I never thought I would find myself in this situation. I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you are doing for my children. This makes me stop and think about how blessed I have been to live in such a wonderful country where programs like this are available when you really need them. You truly represent what the meaning and spirit of Christmas is all about. God bless you all."

Staff Sgt. Muckey-Quizado, who received help from a similar program when he was younger, said it was a privilege to run the Toys for Tots program.

"San Angelo is by far the best community I have ever lived in," said Staff Sgt. Muckey-Quizado. "Look around at all the different non-profit and charitable organizations. None of these are struggling and there are always plenty of volunteers to help. Where else do you see this? Where else is the spirit of "community" so strong? All I want to say after three years is thank you San Angelo. You make a difference more than you know," he added.