Financial hardships are troubling many this year, in one way or another.

For some families across Tarrant County and Texas, the holiday season can be just one more financial burden to shoulder. 

Some parents turn to toy drives to fill their stockings and satisfy their child’s Christmas wishes. 

The United States Marine Corps and the Texas State Guard help fill those bags, playing Santa, only dressed in blues and fatigues instead of red and white.

“This is really why we’re in uniform,” said Texas State Guard Master Sgt. James Williams. “We want to give back.”

Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth is the city’s fourth-largest employer, but it’s some of the military’s other branches that have taken control of toy collection in Tarrant County.  

Toys for Tots, run by the Marines, and the Texas State Guard Toy Drive are leading toy donation and distribution in Tarrant County, as they have for many Decembers. 

Toys for Tots, a well-known national campaign, has operated in the Fort Worth area since 1947. The campaign is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

In 2021, the campaign distributed 432,028 toys, supporting 237,784 children throughout Texas. 

This holiday season, Toys for Tots has already hosted a few drives and events, including one hosted by fixed-base operator American Aero. During the drop-off, Fort Worth residents and American Aero employees donated over 100 toys and bicycles.

Local campaign coordinators are hoping for similar distribution numbers to 2021, despite a slight decrease in early donations. Still, Toys for Tots is on track to support 65,000 children in Tarrant and Johnson counties this holiday season, Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel DiBiase said.

“It’s been great,” DiBiase said. “It’s wonderful to see the support we’ve been getting.” 

While donations have slightly fallen, coordinators say demand is “as high as it’s ever been.”

According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, toys experienced an inflation rate of 2.16% in 2022, up from 0.03% last year. For those who usually have spare cash for donations, these higher costs limit them and further hurt those who already have trouble buying their own children’s gifts. 

Toys for Tots posted donation boxes throughout Tarrant County in November and shipped those back to its warehouse in west Fort Worth on Dec. 10, but that doesn’t mean the organization has stopped taking donations. 

The campaign works with 83 local organizations and nonprofits that help Toys for Tots and the Marines to distribute hundreds of thousands of toys locally by using their networks to connect those in need.

“They get back to us with the numbers they’re looking to support this year.” DiBiase said, “then the mission is on to us.”

If you’d still like to donate, or request to receive toys from Toys for Tots, contact one of these organizations. They’ll take donations and requests up to Christmas Eve. 

“There is no greater joy than to give a kid a toy,” DiBiase said. 

Another way to get into the giving spirit is by donating to the Texas State Guard Toy Drive, which has a dropbox set-up at the Greater Fort Worth American Legion Post 516, and recommends people send cash donations.

“Every $4 raised online represents one toy delivered to a child in need,” Texas State Guard Master Sgt. James Williams said, “and that’s on top of all the toys donated directly.”

So far, the Texas State Guard has raised $11,320 of its $20,000 goal.

The State Guard Toy Drive has a similar mission and a similar impact as Toys for Tots, despite the grassroots efforts of the campaign. 

“We just don’t have the funds… None of us get paid for this,” Texas State Guard Master Sgt. John Gately said. “We spend our time, spend our gas money, because we volunteer to help the state of Texas”

Even with limited funding, the drive is still able to make an impact on tens of thousands of children across Texas, according to Master Sgt. Gately. Last year, the drive collected and distributed 87,775 toys, and volunteers are aiming for a similar number this year.

One local beneficiary to the State Guard Toy Drive is Cook Children’s Healthcare Center, which has partnered with the Guard since the beginning.

For Fort Worth residents who donate toys to the State Guard, it’s likely those toys will stay in the city, distributed to Cook Children’s. 

“Due to our low budget… we keep the toys pretty much local,” Master Sgt. Williams said. “It doesn’t make sense to take [the toys] back to a centralized area and then redistribute them. We keep them and distribute them locally.”

The Texas State Guard will also be taking donations, cash or physical toys, through Christmas Eve, according to Master Sgt. Gately.

For both toy drives, donated toys must be new and unopened. If you need tips for donating or gift-giving, listen to this conversation between Cook Children’s Medical Center’s Sharon Evans and Fort Worth Report health reporter Alexis Allison. 

“That’s why we do it. It’s for the kids,” said Master Sgt. Williams. “They deserve everything we can, and we try to give them everything we can.” 

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Matthew Sgroi

Matthew Sgroi

Matthew Sgroi is the 2022-23 Fort Worth Report multimedia fellow. He can be reached at or (503)-828-4063. Sgroi is a current senior at Texas Christian University, majoring...