NORMAL - As Toys For Tots celebrates its 60th anniversary nationally this year, McLean County Toys for Tots has an ambitious goal.
"The goal is to collect 30,000 toys and gifts," said Matt Drat, local coordinator of the McLean County program.
The organization, affiliated with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, collected more than 28,000 toys in McLean County last season to give to needy children at the Christmas holidays.
Drat is confident the community will respond to the higher goal. The collection continues through Dec. 19.
"I'm confident. They know what's at stake. It's the kids," Drat said. The goal was announced Monday at the Children's Discovery Museum.
The program collects new, unwrapped toys and gifts that are distributed through social service organizations such as The Salvation Army.
The public can donate at more than 90 drop-off locations throughout McLean County, including retail stores, restaurants and government agencies.
Toys also will be collected at special events: 1 p.m. Saturday at the Illinois Wesleyan University home football game; 10 a.m. Dec. 1 at the Jaycees Christmas parade; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Wild and Swingin' Holiday Party at the Bloomington Center for Performing Arts; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Suzy Bogguss Christmas Holiday Show at the BCPA; and 8 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Illinois Symphony Holiday Pops Concert at BCPA.
The Toys for Tots program was established nationally in 1947 to provide Christmas toys and gifts for needy children ages newborn to 16.
Drat said 2007 will provide a challenge in making sure toys recalled for safety reasons are not distributed.
"We will monitor the toys we get and make sure none are on the list," he said.
Also new is a Toys for Tots Santa's Workshop designation that honors businesses and organizations that have helped with the McLean County drive. Initial inductees are Connecting Point Computer; B104; WBNQ; Central Illinois Leathernecks; WEEK-TV; VFW Post 454; Midwest Electronics; Hundman Lumber; UAW Local 2488; and Mitsubishi Motors North America.
How to help
• Drop new, unwrapped toys in one of more than 90 collection boxes located throughout McLean County. A list of drop-off sites is at www.mcleantoysfortots.org
• Make checks payable to McLean County Toys for Tots, 1306 E. Empire St., Bloomington, IL 61701.