The Toys for Tots program was first started in 1947 by Major Bill Hendricks, USCR, with what seemed to be a simple gesture of donating a doll, made by his wife, to an underprivileged child for Christmas. Major Hendricks quickly discovered that there were no agencies organized to distribute toys to needy children. This was a void he felt needed to be filled, and so was born the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots with the help of a group of Marine Reservists. During the first year, Major Hendricks and the Reservists gathered and distributed 5000 toys to underprivileged children in the Los Angeles area. In 1948, the Marine Corp adopted the idea and expanded it nationwide starting Toys for Tots in every town where a Marine Reserve Center was located.
In the 1980's, the Marines saw a need to affiliate with a non-for profit charity, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation was organized. Over its life span, the Foundation has supplemented local toy collections with more than 98 million toys valued at more than $694 million; plus provided promotion and support materials valued at over $8.5 million.
In 2009, Panther's "Drive to Fill the Truck" campaign was born. Andrew Clarke, President and CEO of Panther Expedited Services, chose Toys for Tots as a way to give back to the community. "It's a great cause. The holidays remind us all that we have so much to be thankful for, Toys for Tots has given the Panther family a tremendous outlet to pay it forward. I am honored to donate my time to be a part of such a worthwhile organization." Clarke says.
Andrew Clarke and Ed Wadel drove a sprinter van for a week in 2009, donating the profits to Toys for Tots. The trip had a lesson for Clarke. Clarke says, "I was driving a diesel cargo van when I stopped during a very cold storm in Rockford, Illinois. Several hours later, I tried to start the engine and the fuel line was frozen. It was a comedy of errors worthy of a reality TV show."
In 2010, Clarke obtained his CDL so he could drive a 22' straight truck. Few CEOs of a trucking company have a CDL. Clarke explains, "I've always had the desire to put myself into the driver's seat to gain a better understanding of a 'day in the life' of a Panther Contractor. Our fleet is the lifeline of our business and spending time in their shoes really helps me stay in touch with the day-to-day ups and downs of our business partners. I relish the opportunity to step out of my office and into theirs." Clarke, working with owner-operator Lyn Brumfield, traveled around the eastern United States to make money for Toys for Tots. They surpassed their fundraising goals by nearly $20,000.
This year, Fyda Freightliner of Ohio has donated the use of an eye-catching, new Freightliner M-2 with the Toys for Tots logo on the box. Clarke is positive of this year's goals, "Our goal is to exceed the donations received from the previous year. With this year's donations, we will have raised over $75,000 over the last four years. I am proud of our people and our partners for their incredible generosity."
"We could not be as successful in Panther's "Drive to Fill the Truck" campaign if not for our sponsors including: Airfreight.com, All Trux, Balwin & Lyons- TIA, Calfee, Carrier/WW Williams, Carson Group, CDW, Commercial Insurance Solutions, Complete Business Printing, Dan Sokolowski, Equinox Owner- Operator Solutions, Inc., Hightower Agency, Macropoint/Bennett Adelson, MCPc, On-Time Media/ExpeditersOnline.com, Peter Lamm, Phalanx Advisors, Qualcomm, Richard Wark, Scudder Law Firm, Speedco, Thermo King of Richfield, True North, Zidd Agency, and the many others that we are expecting donations from this year." Clarke says.
Panther is an official drop site for Toys for Tots, with offices throughout the United States; new, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at Panther's many offices. Call Panther at 800-685-0657 for locations if you have toys to drop off.
To support this worthy cause, involve your company in the Marine's Toys for Tots campaign, or to find Toys for Tots drop off sites near your town, go to www.toysfortots.org.