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Michelle Obama drops off gifts at Toys for Tots

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Toys for Tots began as a project operated by a Marine Corps reservist to distribute toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. It is now operated as a nonprofit charity by the Marine Corps Reserve.

In 2009, Obama — who, as first lady, is also involved in the Joining Forces initiative to support military families — began collecting gifts for the program at the White House.

“The military families are what inspires my work,” she said on Tuesday. “Because even though all of you are dealing with your own hardships and challenges and struggles, you're moving from base to base every couple of years; even though you've endured deployment after deployment, the miraculous thing about you all and your spirit is somehow you always are the first people to volunteer for something. It could be as simple as the car pool, or the PTA, or a food pantry, or you're stepping up for a neighbor or friend; family members of your own. But somehow you're always the ones who find the extra hours in the day to give back, above and beyond what life has thrown your way anyway.”

She urged individual Americans and companies to step up and give to the toy drive, saying, “I want to be clear that there is still plenty of time for people all across this country to get involved with Toys for Tots.”

Local toy collection typically runs until mid- to late December, and donations are also accepted online.

The first lady gave practical advice to those interested in giving gifts to the program this year, asking them to remember that older children also need something to open on Christmas.

“As you shop for children this year, think about things like books and games, clothing, backpacks — anything for kids ages 11 to 14, which is why we brought over a lot of clothes,” she said. “Because if your teens are like mine, they want some clothes, something cute to wear.”

She also said President Obama brought some of the gifts back with him from a trip to a toy company in Pennsylvania at the end of November.

Obama visited a facility operated by The Rodon Group, the manufacturer of Tinkertoys and K’NEX building sets, and commented on how fun he considers K’NEX in particular.

“The CEO of K'NEX has donated a lot of toys; my husband brought some of them back with him from his visit to the company a couple of weeks ago,” Michelle Obama said.