Members of the March Air Reserve Base Blue Eagles Total Force Honor Guard decided that a toy drive in support of Operation Warm Heart wasn’t enough. Their team of OWH ‘elves’ gained support, not only from organizations on base, but from members of the local community, mainly through help from Lori Gracey and her students and their parents at Kinross Lane Preschool, Moreno Valley, Calif.
On Dec. 13, 2013, volunteers from the March Field and Riverside Fire Departments arrived in three fire trucks to join the preschool students, and their parents, to support the school’s challenge, to collect enough toys to fill-up a 20-foot toy hauler parked in front of the school.
Thanks to overwhelming on-base donations from the 452nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron, 729th Airlift Squadron, 452nd Operations Support Squadron and 452nd Civil Engineer Squadron, and community support from Redlands Community Hospital, Toys ‘R’ Us and Rock Fitness, this year’s challenge eclipsed the outcome from the previous years.
Gracey, who also owns the pre-school, led the kids in a single-file line out to the trailer to begin the donation event. Students handed the firefighters the toys, after which they were treated to fire truck tours, including spraying the fire hose with the help of the firefighters.
“The toy drive was a huge success,” said Gracey. “We have been talking about kids less fortunate than us and wanted to do something for them. The children enjoyed giving as much as the adults.”
The event was organized as part of an effort to provide those March families, needing a little extra help this holiday season, with enough toys to make it a special one.
The Honor Guard was motivated to give back to veterans who have given so much to our community. It was easy to find support from the team and the local community.
The toy donations supported Operation Warm Heart, a Private Organization existing since the early 1990s, to provide support to those March families that have come up against unexpected difficulties.
“With the toys that are provided by both on and off base organizations and individuals, we are able to help those families,” said Billie Edwards, March Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief, and the one who heads up the OWH efforts. “I have heard back from families that have received help in past years, and their response has always been so positive,” said Edwards, who was on hand at the school to oversee the donations.
“I’ve also noticed, that while we are busy collecting, our happiness factor rises. I think that helping others always makes us feel good by putting our difficulties into perspective.”
Thanks to the efforts of many, the holidays will be a little brighter for some March families, and some tiny tots learned a valuable lesson in the spirit of giving.