The first toys have been donated for the Toys for Tots program in McLean County. This year's goal is 20,000 gifts. (photo by Zach Dietmeier/WJBC)
By Zach Dietmeier
BLOOMINGTON - Toys for Tots is bigger than ever at the beginning of its 20th year in McLean County.
The annual holiday toy drive by the Marine Corps Reserve is hoping to make another difference in the lives of local children.
"This is going to be one of those milestone years," said Drat. "Our theme '20 for 20' with 20,000 toys - 1,000 for every year we've been in existence. We know the community will help us make that goal."
Drat is proud of the over 100 drop off locations throughout the McLean County and Bloomington-Normal area.
"Frankly, that is one of the best ways to support McLean County Toys for Tots," said Drat. "Just pick up a toy. It doesn't have to be a high value item, it can be something small. Drop it at one of the locations and you can be assured that your donation will make a huge difference this holiday season."
Drat said this will be his tenth and final year heading the event while he will continue to contribute. He's been a part of McLean County Toys for Tots for 17 years and plans to still contribute.
"My passion has not diminished, but there are other people whose passion is just as high as mine," said Drat. "They are Marine veterans, and it's really their opportunity to take over what is classicly a Marine Corps and Marine veteran-run operation."
Drat added that although he has never served as active member of the Marine Corps, he has the utmost respect for the fraternity. His replacement is assistant coordinator Troy Zeigler, a former Marine and stationary engineer at the ISU heating plant. Zeigler has been working every holiday since 1994, and he says he found his passion as a Marine.
"It kind of hits home," said Zeigler. "It's just one of those organizations and charities that I can become passionate about. It really went off in my head that this is just something I need to do."
Drat and Zeigler both said that pre-teens are the most difficult group to supply because they don't want the same toys as the younger kids but aren't old enough for some of the gifts the older teens receive. They said the most commonly supplied age range is the seven to ten-year old demographic.
Over 6,000 McLean County young people were reached with toys and gifts last year.
Zach Dietmeier can be reached at email@example.com.