Last December, in miserable weather, Marines at Ramona Airport filled a 9-ton Marine troop transport and the airport manager’s Explorer with toys at the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive.
This year, Marines dressed in cammies and full dress uniforms will collect new unwrapped toys from Ramona Airport at 2926 Montecito Road between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Another Toys for Tots drop box will be at the Ramona Adult Softball Fields in Ramona Community Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 6.
“We live in a wonderful, caring community, and they will show their best this Dec. 5th,” said Ramona resident Bo Donovan, the manager of Ramona and Fallbrook airports.
When Donovan talks about last year’s Toys for Tots campaign at Ramona Airport, it is with a great deal of emotion in his voice.
“A child about 7 to 8 rode up on his bike and handed me a little set of airplanes from the 99 Cent store and said, ‘I only had a dollar,’ but he gave it to us,” said Donovan.
A family of four drove to the airport with their van “crammed packed with toys—bikes, dolls, you name it,” Donovan added. “When I asked them what did they leave for their Christmas, they said, ‘This is our Christmas. We voted and decided to take the money we would have spent on each other and give it to you.’ Everyone, even the Marines, started crying.”
While others in the community may be holding Toys for Tots efforts, the one at Ramona Airport is an official site. Donovan recently placed drop boxes at several locations such as the Pott Belly Shop at 885 Main St., Kenrix Sushi at 2330 Main St. and Ramona Chamber of Commerce at 960 Main St. for the convenience of donors who will be unable to go to the airport on Saturday. A box in the Pacific Executive Aviation lobby has been giving pilots a place to leave their contributions this week.
“It’s a passionate thing with us,” Donovan said of the annual effort at the airport. “It tugs at your heart. The toys that these children receive from the Marines, in many, many cases is the only gift these kids will have for Christmas.”
Donovan anticipates a great deal of activity at the airport on Saturday.
“Cars will drive through the parking lot, the Marines will be out there, I’ll be there, the planes will be there,” he said. “There will be a crew at the ramp to collect toys from the planes that come. They come from all over.”
The event is announced on various aviation Web sites, explained Donovan, and it is not uncommon for pilots to fly in from places such as Las Vegas and Phoenix as well as airports throughout Southern California. In addition to the Marines and Marine Corps vehicles, several aircraft will be on display during the airport event
Since 1947, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program has collected toys for Christmas gifts for needy children.
The toy collection at the softball fields on Sunday is part of Ramona Adult Softball’s Third Annual Toys for Tots Coed Softball Tournament. Teams from Southern California participate in the tournament, and all players are asked to bring a new unwrapped toy with a minimum value of $10.
Marines from USMC Miramar will be at the tournament from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday to collect the toy donations.
Ramona Adult Softball has collected about $2,000 worth of gift certificates and prize packages from San Diego County businesses that will be given in opportunity drawings to tournament attendees. The deadline to register for the tournament is Dec. 4. For more information, call Michele Barrameda at 760-317-8160 or visit www.ramonaadultsoftball.com.
Another Toys for Tots drop-off spot is B. Cortie Dove’s State Farm office at 315 11th St. New unwrapped toys will be accepted there through Dec. 14. To check for other drop-off locations, visit www.toysfortots.org/donate/toys.asp.