The Toys for Tots program was started some years back. It began as an exhibition game played in December and to be eligible to play in the game each player had to donate a toy. As the years past the program faded away. In 2014 I was approached by Tom Hewitt and Walt Szwajkowski managers and players in the SJMSBL about trying to reinstate this program as part of the SJMSBL’s yearly activities. The three of us took the ball and ran with it and reinstated the program. We also wanted to combine something else holiday related with the U.S Marine Corps. Reserves Toys for Tots program and a few ideas were kicked around. We decided to have a Holiday food drive to which all proceed would go to the Cathedral kitchen in Camden, N.J. Much to our surprise the program was a huge success in its inaugural year, we filled a large U.S. Marine vehicle with toys to the point where the two Marines driving the vehicle could barely fit in. We also delivered a lot of food to the Cathedral Kitchen. The collection game is coupled with a children’s pick-up game at Cherry Hill National Little league which we use for our collection site. It is unbelievable to watch the fun the children have on this day coming together with their, fathers, mothers, friends and family playing the game we all love. We have two umpires at the game who donate their time as well and who make calls in a boisterous way that the children love, like pro umpires!
We start this annual drive on July 25th or the Sunday closest to that day with a Christmas in July theme during that week’s regularly schedule SJMSBL games. All of the players will donate a toy or canned good which is put in storage until mid- November. On the day of the drive everyone comes together for the event. Great support, generosity and fun are the common themes that run throughout the day. We are helped by many league members and the Camden Catholic baseball team with all that is involved with setting up and running the day’s events. We culminate the day that evening at one of our sponsors the Post Office Café in the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia. To be an attendee we ask that besides the $20.00 admission fee all coming to the event bring a toy. At this event the U.S. Marines are present and we give them all the toys we collected.
This year’s drive was the most successful to date. We expanded our food bank donations to include not only the Cathedral Kitchen but the St. Isaac Jogues Church, Society of St. Vincent DePaul food bank in Marlton, N.J. Once again when we filled the Marine vehicle with all the toys you could not have squeezed in a piece of paper. Each year this drive has grown by leaps and bounds. We have all vowed to continue to grow this event and take it to another level. We could not do it without the support of many area businesses and private donors and each year the list grows and grows. We are all very humbled and grateful at the generosity and support of just not the South Jersey and the Philadelphia baseball communities but by everyone who donates and gets involved. Remember we all can make a difference!