U.S. Marine Sgt. Michael Umbreit still remembers opening his Nintendo game system on Christmas Day when he was 6 years old.
The 29-year-old from West Babylon understands the importance of Christmas to a child.
So it was only fitting that he volunteered his services along with 11 of his fellow Marines based in Farmingdale for the “Fill the 7-Ton Truck” event held Saturday at the Sons of Italy Hall in Deer Park.
“For a kid to wake up and not have anything under the Christmas tree is sad. It means a lot for me to be here and help out,” said Umbreit.
In its second year, the event is organized by Deer Park resident Anthony Macaluso Jr., who’s also a member of the Sons of Italy.
Macaluso Jr. works with Toys for Tots and the Marines to collect toys for children on Long Island.
“This is for the community to get together and give back,” said Macaluso Jr. “The best thing for me to see is children receive toys for Christmas and make families happy.”
Last year, the event collected 1,100 toys and raised $875. This year 2,000 toys were collected.
“It’s great to see so many people come out and make donations to make someone else happy,” he said. “Every year, I want this to grow bigger and bigger giving a lot of people a Merry Christmas.”
In addition to collecting toys, the event featured a kids corner where Deer Park High School seniors helped kids write letters to troops overseas.
Timmy Calder, 10, of Deer Park was more than happy to write a letter.
He wrote: “Dear Soldiers, Thank you for everything you do for our country. Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year.”
For more information on how to donate, check out the Toys for Tots website.