The Marine Toys for Tots Native American Program

The United States Marine Corps and the Navajo Nation have had a special relationship since the “Code Talkers” of World War II fame. In 1980, Mobilization Training Unit (MTU) CA-16 (Los Angeles Public Affairs), the original 1947 Toys for Tots unit, took on the responsibility of collecting, transporting, and distributing toys to the Navajo Nation and later to other Native American tribes. Over the years, the MTU grew smaller and was eventually disbanded. At that time, the mission was taken over and conducted by the Toys for Tots Native American Program; a Local Community Organization (LCO) based in Laguna Niguel, California, and consisted of two former MTU CA-16 Marine Corps Officers. This organization works under the direction of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation in support of the United States Marine Corps.

A traditional Toys for Tots program involves the collection of toys in a community, and the distribution of those toys to disadvantaged children in that same community. Because there were no large population centers near the Navajo Nation that could support a traditional toy program, the Navajo Toys for Tots Program was started in order to provide needed toys to more than 60,000 (1990 census) Navajo children. The Navajo Nation is approximately 25,000 square miles and nearly as large in size as Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Hampshire combined. The Navajo Reservation is located mostly in Arizona and New Mexico with a small portion extending into Colorado and Utah. In 1997 the name of the program was changed from the Navajo Toys for Tots to the Native American Toys for Tots because of the addition of the children on the Ramah Navajo (NM), Hopi (AZ), White Mountain Apache (AZ) and Acoma (NM) Reservations as toy recipients, who are the traditional neighbors of the Navajo. In the ensuing years, the following reservations were added to the program: San Carlos Apache (AZ - 2001); Hualapai (AZ - 2002); Pascua Yaqui (AZ - 2003); Zuni (NM - 2004); Tohono O’odham (AZ - 2004); Ely Shoshone (NV - 2005); Duckwater Shoshone (NV - 2005); Gila River/groups (AZ - 2006); Salt River/groups (AZ - 2006); Colorado River Indian Tribes (AZ - 2007); and Chemehuevi (CA - 2011).

Since 1980, the Marine Toys for Tots Native American Program has grown to benefit over 80,000 Native American children annually providing toys and books to participating reservations as well as actively supporting the First Lady of the Navajo Nation with the Navajo Literacy Program. In the early years of the program, few toys were available for distribution on the Reservations and required significant volunteer support from the Reservation Police Departments traveling to California to pick up donated toys. Today, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation supplements the campaign providing thousands of toys by shipping them directly to the Reservations.

You can help with a donation to The Marine Toys for Tots Native American Program by visiting our website at: www.toysfortots.org, or by sending a check made payable to Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and mail to:

Lt Col Peter Tagni
Coordinator, Toys for Tots Native American Program
PO Box 3768
Mission Viejo, CA 92690

For additional information on the Toys for Tots Native American Program, you can visit the website via the link below, or contact:

Peter Tagni, Lieutenant Colonel, USMCR (Ret),
Coordinator, Toys for Tots Native American Program,
Laguna Niguel, California
Telephone # 949-364-5531