Ever faithful, US Marines distribute Toys for Tots
Jennifer Lee Preyss
Dec. 24, 2011 at 6:24 a.m.
Updated Dec. 26, 2011 at 6:26 a.m.
On the fourth floor Children's Unit of DeTar Hospital North, U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Buitron knocked on Erica Caminorreal's door.
"Hi, we're here with Toys for Tots," Buitron whispered to 1-year-old Erica.
Sitting on a darkened hospital bed with mother Crystal Caminorreal, Erica smiled, as a team of former and active Marines offered her a fluffy, cream-colored teddy bear and two new, unwrapped toys.
"I'm glad they're here because it's Christmas Eve, and she's really sick. She's not able to go home for Christmas," said Crystal, describing the pneumonia that forced Erica into the hospital. "We've been here for two days, and she'll probably get to go home tomorrow or Monday."
Visiting one door at a time, the Toys for Tots volunteers meandered down the hospital hallways, delivering toys to sick children.
It's great to be able to take "time out of our day to be able to do this for kids that don't have Christmas," Buitron said. "The other Marine that's with me, he didn't have to be here, but he's taking time out of his day to be away from his family to help us out and pass toys to the kids."
U.S. Marine Corps Private First Class Isaias Rivera, the other active-duty Marine distributing toys to children at DeTar and Citizens Medical Center, said it was his first year to participate in Toys for Tots. Rivera said he traveled home for the holidays from military base Naval Air Station Pensacola, and thought the charitable effort was a worthwhile Christmas cause.
"It's sad because they can't be home for Christmas," Rivera, 18, said. "And then they get to see us walk in with toys. I think it brings them joy."
Watching the Toys for Tots volunteers distribute gifts on DeTar's Labor and Recovery floor, registered nurse Shelli Green said the visits make a powerful impact on the children.
"I think it's wonderful and selfless," Green said. "The children don't want to be here on Christmas Eve, or Christmas, and it brightens their day a little bit."
Before departing for the hospitals, Rivera, Buitron, members of the Marine Corps League, and other Victoria-area volunteers, met at Faith Family Church's warehouse at 9 a.m. to pick an assortment of toys to transport to the hospital. In recent weeks, Faith Family's Toys for Tots representative, Eli Sauseda, said 5,129 toys were distributed to less fortunate children in Victoria, Lavaca, Refugio, Calhoun, DeWitt, Jackson and Goliad Counties.
Additional toys were reserved for hospitalized children. But this year, Sauseda said he was pleased Victoria residents gave too many toys.
"We have about 1,000 toys leftover that will be stored for next year," Sauseda said. "We didn't have to turn anyone away this year, and we had more counties to cover."
Buitron, a nine-year active-duty Marine currently serving as Victoria's Marine recruiter, said participating in Toys for Toys is a rewarding experience on Christmas Eve.
"It's a mixture of everything - in that the families are real proud to see us, and we're able to drop off toys for their kids who are here," he said.