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Old 12-04-2006, 06:31 AM   #1
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Thumbs up Marines, Steelers fans score with Christmas toys for tots

Marines, Steelers fans score with Christmas toys for tots
Collection a winning play to bring smiles to children

Monday, December 04, 2006

By David Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Talk about a refreshing turnabout in circumstances.

Recently Marine Lance Cpls. Christopher Snedeker, 21, of New Castle, and Brian Thatcher, 21, of Jefferson Hills, were stationed in Iraq, where they trusted no stranger and kept eyes peeled for people ready to do them harm.

But yesterday, they found themselves standing outside Heinz Field with their Marine eyes peeled, but this time for people bearing toys and seeking only to help others.

In all, 15 Marines reservists from Bravo Company, a military police unit based in North Versailles, were stationed outside Heinz Field before the Steelers game to collect toys and donations for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign and Goodfellows Toy Fund.

What the Marines discovered were people not only anxious to donate toys, but to pump their hands to thank them for serving their country and helping needy children.

"It's definitely a different experience," Cpl. Snedeker said, noting his unit was hit by seven explosive devices in Iraq. "We talk about it. We were over there fighting for our lives in a place where you don't trust anyone. Now we're collecting toys for little kids."

Yesterday, the Marines expected to fill a 7-ton truck with donated new toys before the game. The Steelers provided them with tickets to watch the game.

The Marines already had collected 50,000 toys, with hopes of doubling that number before the end of the holiday season.

First Sgt. Jim McGinley, a 43-year-old Iraqi war veteran and Pittsburgh firefighter, said the corps will lose its warehouse near Mellon Arena at year's end and needs donated warehouse space to store and distribute toys next year.

The Heinz Field toy drive was promoted regionwide, and Steelers fans responded by donating model airplanes, teddy bears, winged fairies, candy-making devices and toys of all shapes and sizes. Some dropped Santa Claus-size plastic bags full of toys into Marine Corps bins.

"The Marines take the time to do this above and beyond what they already are doing," said John Kovak, of Mars. His wife, Mary Ruth, shook each Marine's hand to thank them for their military service and community good deeds.

Margie Lechowicz, formerly of Avalon and now living near Chicago, said her husband read about the promotion on the Steelers Web site, prompting them to scramble last minute to buy a Superman doll and infant toy set at a grocery store.

Robert Doherty, 8, of Sewickley, dropped a Transformer and Smorz candy-maker into the bin as a way to give back to the community.

"We do what we can to help the less fortunate," said his mother, Jody Doherty.

Greg McNamara, of Beechview, said while waiting in line at Kmart to buy a remote control car and other toys, he met other fans also buying toys to donate at Heinz Field. "We take things for granted, while they put their lives on the line," Mr. McNamara said of the Marines.

Those still interested in donating toys can drop them off at any Pittsburgh firehouse. For more information, consult www.toysfortots.org.

Sgt. McGinley, who led the toy detail at Heinz Field, said Marines collected about 3,500 toys and $5,500 in donations at the stadium.

"There are people truly in need and hurting. When they know the Marine Corps is there for them, it's a big relief," he said. "We know that children should not go without. This truly is a great cause."

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Old 12-04-2006, 07:33 AM   #2
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Default Re: Marines, Steelers fans score with Christmas toys for tots

What a wonderful heartwarming gesture by our Marines! I just won a couple of bucks at Wheeling Downs last week and now I have the best use of all for that moola! There's a city fire station about 4 miles from me, so I've got some shopping to do this week. God Bless these fine men and women, not only for their much appreciated and invaluable service to our country, but for working so diligently to give these children a smile and a special visit from Santa on Christmas morn! Thanks for the heads-up on this, 83.

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