Toys for Tots

08 Jan 2009
I've been volunteering for just about anything around here.  It's a good way to meet people, and occasionally you feel good about doing something for somebody. 

This week I helped with Toys for Tots.  It's run by the Navy League here - a local group that looks after US Navy or Coast Guard folks that may wash up on our shores.  The timing is a little different from Toys for Tots in the US, as kids in Mexico also get presents for "King's Day", January 6.  Local organizations contribute money or other things to the effort, and the Navy League purchases presents to take to the kids in the area.

I started helping on January 5 - the presents had to be prepared for distribution.  We inflated 3500 soccer and basketballs, as well as bagged up toy trucks, blocks, dolls, skip ropes and other things.  There were 9 routes, with 1200 toys per route.  You do the math.
Since I'm a glutton for punishment, I got volunteered for going on one of the longest routes.  A mere 40 miles on roads so bad that the whole trip was to take 11 hours.  We are talking some seriously disturbed roads here! 

We started out with 4 trucks, with two turning back after we had finished distributing toys to 4 schools, which represented about 70% of our toys and only about an hour.  After that, the remaining 2 vehicles headed up into the mountains to take toys to the small one-room schools and ranches up in the hills.  There were places along the way that were so remote that one wondered why they were there in the first place, and how they managed to live.  Just going to a store for them would be a serious commitment. 

It was an amazing experience.  In general, the children were polite and grateful for their toys.  At the ranches and remote homes the mother would come out with the kids and supervise as they were given their toys.  At the schools, the headmaster would line the boys on one side and the girls on the other, each stepping forward to receive their gift.  In a couple of places we saw boys playing soccer, so we stopped on the side of the road and threw new balls into their fields.

After 10 hours we had pretty much driven over the top of the Sierra Madres, crossed into 8000ft altitude and distributed almost all our toys.  My memories of the experience was of smiling children, parents and teachers who shook our hands and waved...

... and a very sore rear!  I'll take 12 months for me to forget the pain of the trip and remember to great thing that we were doing.