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Marines occupy JLA for Toys for Tots

by Craig Peterson / Detroit Red Wings

Members of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve collected items for the Toys for Tots program as Red Wings fans entered Joe Louis Arena for Tuesday night's game against the Florida Panthers. (Craig Peterson/Detroit Red Wings)
DETROIT — The military men in uniform standing on the Joe Louis Arena concourse caught the attention of Marcia Wegher, whose husband of 47 years, Steve, served in the Air Force as a flight control technician.

“Look at them, they’re beautiful,” she said. “As a mom, I just want to hug every one of them.”

Members of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve manned each entrance at The Joe when the doors opened at 6 p.m. to collect donations for Toys for Tots prior to the Red Wings game against the Florida Panthers.

“It’s unique but it kind of adds a little different dynamic,” said Staff Sergeant Scott Bare who serves as Toys for Tots coordinator for southeast Michigan. “It allows us to reach out to more people because of the event size. Usually the events we have are 50 to 100 maybe a couple hundred but when you get into a couple thousands, it helps push the Toys for Tots name out there and it helps bring awareness to it especially the first week of December you start thinking a little bit more into Christmas and everything.”

Fans were encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys or monetary donations to support the cause. The first 20 people at each entrance to make a contribution received a hockey puck autographed by a member of the Wings.

Jasmine Atterberry, 16, from Taylor, Michigan, saw a notification on the team’s website prior to Tuesday’s game and was among the first few people to make a donation.

“The Wings, they have a great fan base so most people I think would do it,” Atterberry said. “I mean Hockeytown is a big place and they have great fans.”

After placing her Angry Birds board game in the donation box, Atterberry said being able to give back is something her and her family do frequently.

“My grandma does charity stuff,” she said. “Why not just do it? I mean I love hockey and they’re doing it for a good cause.”

Toys were suggested to be suitable for children ages one to 12 and should not have exceeded a $30 limit to ensure all children receive comparable items. In 67 years, the Toys for Tots program has distributed more than 469 million toys to more than 216 million less fortunate children nationwide.

Locally, Staff Sergeant Bare said the campaign would host more than 150 events during the next 21 days in Wayne and Macomb Counties alone. Additionally, the Wings will continue their efforts on Thursday, as a similar drive is set to take place leading up to their game against the Dallas Stars.

All of the toys donated in the Detroit area will be disbursed to children in the area that the toys were collected in. Items typically consist of books, board games and sports equipment with donation drives taking place during October, November and December each year. Monetary donations can be made at ToysForTots.org where funds will go towards purchasing items that can be given to children across the country.

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