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gys
12-24-02, 08:16 PM
Received the following in an e-mail. Pretty sad for the kids. I worked with toys for tots and the kids really benefit.

Marines ousted from toy drive location
This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press December 11, 2002.

By RICH BREAULT
Valley Press Senior Writer

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LANCASTER - No Toys For Tots at Toys `R' Us.
James Bono and his two young children went in armed with gift cards from the children's grandfather Saturday at the Toys `R' Us store on Avenue K.

On the way in, they had their photo taken with Santa, and in return were going to purchase a toy to give to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots representative standing near the store's entrance.

"They were excited about buying a toy for Toys for Tots and decided to buy three toys," Bono said. "When we got to the front of the store, we were handed the kids' photo with Santa, but there were no Marines or Toys for Tots barrel.

"The lady who handed us the photo said (Toys for Tots) was kicked out because they didn't have approval to be there. The kids were disappointed, so we took the toys to the VFW (Post 9657) in Rosamond, where my mom and stepdad were, and we donated (the toys) there."

Gunnery Sgt. Daphne Sherlock, local Marines coordinator for Toys for Tots, said the ouster came as a surprise to her.

"We were told that Toys `R' Us corporate headquarters said no more Marines in front of their stores for Toys for Tots," Sherlock said. "I don't know why. I have done Toys for Tots for 10 years and we have always been welcome at Toys `R' Us."

The managers at Lancaster Toys `R' Us told the Valley Press they couldn't comment and advised a reporter to call the parent company's headquarters.

"We don't let anyone solicit on our premises," Toys `R' Us spokeswoman Susan McLaughlin said. "Toys for Tots is a great program. But if they have been soliciting on our property, it shouldn't have been allowed.

"This year, Toys `R' Us, Kids `R' Us and Babies `R' Us are working with the Boys and Girls Club of America and the program `A Time for Smiles.' It's a program where money is given at the registers, collected and then given to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America's Christmas toy program for the needy."

When told that programs such as Antelope Valley Transportation Agency's "Stuff-A-Bus" toy collection program operates from a parking lot in front of the Lancaster Toys `R' Us, McLaughlin said, "If it is a strip mall, we are not the owners of the parking lot, and they could probably solicit there with the owner's permission."

"And if the Marines got the owner's permission, they could probably do it from the parking lot as well."

Bono said he's upset about the lack of support for Toys for Tots.

"It's hard to understand (Toys `R' Us') motivation. It's a pretty sad thing they did," Bono said. "I know that when my dad gets ready to send gift cards for the kids next Christmas, I'll ask him for gift cards from Wal-Mart or KB Toys."

Sherlock said the Toys for Tots program will be hurt by not being able to collect toys at Toys `R' Us.

"I think "Toys `R' Us" is shooting themselves in their own foot," Sherlock said. "Our other collection sites have been awesome. If people want to buy a toy at Toys `R' Us and bring to KB Toys in Lancaster or Palmdale to drop it off, they can."
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