To explain what Toys for Tots does and why, Powder Springs resident Beki Varicak, wife of Marine Lt. Col. Mike Varicak, wrote “The Journey of a Toys for Tots Toy” for her now-6-year-old daughter, Catherine.
After word of the book got out, Varicak was asked to read it at the tree-lighting ceremony at the Georgia governor’s mansion.
“It got a great response, and I got the blessing from the foundation to use the title,” Varicak said. “The book went on sale (Nov. 26) and it is already No. 4 in the ‘New Releases Children’s Books and Poetry.’”
Varicak, who studied English in college, occasionally writes poems for family and friends, but this is her first go at writing a book. Her 16-year-old daughter, Ellie, illustrated it.
“It’s kind of our baby,” she said. “We’re so happy and proud of it.”
Proceeds from the sales will go back to Toys for Tots, Varicak said.
“We just love this foundation and what it does for children,” she said.
The metro Atlanta Toys for Tots drive collected 750,000 toys for children last year and has set a goal of collecting 1 million this year. Nationally, the organization collected 16 million toys in 2011.
The local foundation is asking for the community to donate new, unwrapped gifts. The campaign ends Dec. 22.
Marine Lance Corp. Karen Alvarez, assistant coordinator for Toys for Tots in the Atlanta area, said toys they need the most are for boys and girls up to 2 years old and from 8 to 12 years old.
The 30-year-old, first-year Marine said toys can be donated at hundreds of locations throughout metro Atlanta, specifically at Publix grocery stores.
Kennesaw State University is also collecting toys through Dec. 14. Boxes are scattered throughout campus at the student center, lobby of the Social Sciences building, Veterans Resource Center in Willingham Hall, Kennesaw Hall under the spiral stairs and in the Commons.
A number of groups are also hosting toy drives under the direction of Gunnery Sgt. Jason Tollett, who’s served in the Marines for 17 years.
The Toys for Tots volunteer, originally from Ohio, has worked with the foundation for the last two years.
“It’s a lot of work, but once you start seeing the benefit from kids actually receiving the toys, it’s pretty exciting to see how quickly a toy can bring a smile to a kid’s face,” he said.
So far this year, they’ve hosted 80 events.
While people are encouraged to donate toys, the organization is also in need of volunteers at toy warehouses in Marietta and Norcross.
Gifts will be given out in the week and a half leading up to Christmas. Some toys from the metro Atlanta drive will be sent to children whose families were affected by Hurricane Sandy in the northeast in October.
“This is something that I really take to heart because I’m enjoying every minute of it,” Alvarez said. “I know it’s going to an unprivileged kid, and to make a kid smile and make them happy on Christmas day, how can you beat that?”
Reservist Major William L. Hendricks and his wife, Diane, started Toys for Tots in 1947. In their first year, the couple collected 5,000 toys.
In 1991, the U.S. Secretary of Defense authorized the creation and affiliation with the nonprofit charity foundation, and as of 2011, the Toys for Tots Program and Foundation has collected and distributed almost 550 million toys.
For more information on how or where to donate toys or volunteer, visit www.atlantatoysfortots.com. Varicak’s book can be purchased at www.amazon.com or www.authorhouse.com.