Coming off a big win in Pittsburgh against the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers, the trio of WR Louis Murphy, WR Chaz Schilens, and TE Zach Miller, along with a pair of Raiderettes, gathered at NewPark Mall in Newark, Calif., to be a part of a big win for the community, participating in the United States Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program.
One of Sunday's standouts, Louis Murphy didn't think twice about participating in the program. "It's great. It's Christmastime so you have to be in the giving spirit. It's good just to be able to give back those that are less fortunate. I want to bring the Christmas joy back to Oakland," Murphy explained.
The Toys for Tots Program, which is entering its 62nd year, began in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, and a group of Marine reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 used toys to needy children.
Marine SSgt. Christopher West was in attendance for the event assisting in the collection of toy donations. "Every year it has grown. The first couple of years when it was first started, Marines would get broken toys, fix them, and hand them out to the community. Since then, it has grown so much," said West.
In 1995, the Secretary of Defense William James Perry made Toys for Tots the official mission of the United States Marine Corps Reserve.
According to their website, the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.
West has high expectations for Toys for Tots 2009. "We want to collect 100,000 toys," West proclaimed.
West added, "In the Bay Area, there are four units that will be collecting toys for their various communities. My unit is Alameda County and part of Contra Costa County."
The other units will serve the communities of San Francisco, San Jose, and Concord.
Last year, the USMC was fortunate to have an excess of toys. This gave the Marines an opportunity to personally hand out toys in Oakland on Christmas Eve.
"Last year on Christmas Eve, with all the extra toys we generated we went up and down the streets of Oakland delivering to low income areas that needed help," West recalled. "It was great seeing the kids coming getting their toys and just seeing the smiles on their faces. It made it all worth it."
Along with Murphy, wide receiver Chaz Schilens and tight end Zach Miller also attended the event.
"Anytime we can give back to the community it is important for us to get out there and show people we care about them supporting us too," Schilens said. "It feels very good. We are very fortunate to be playing football, a game that we love, and anything that we can do to show to the fans that we appreciate them is great for us."
Miller added, "It is great. Anytime you can give back to the community or help in some way I think it is huge. As athletes we need to set a good example. I think it is big because Christmas is a great opportunity to help the less fortunate."
The event called for the help from the community to make donations and the Raider Nation did not disappoint.
Robert Simao and David Chavez waited in line for four hours just to participate in the event. "There's a lot of kids out there that are in need, especially in times like these. Anything will help. It's fantastic. I have been donating for multiple years. I do it not just for the autograph, but to give back to the kids," Simao said.
Chavez added, "I brought 20 stuffed animals for 20 unfortunate kids. It means a lot to not just me, but to all the fans for the Raiders to be a part of this. With the economy the way it is, it is awesome."
Monday's event at NewPark Mall will not be the only opportunity to participate in the Toys for Tots Program.
DE Richard Seymour, CB Chris Johnson and Hall of Fame cornerback and current assistant coach Willie Brown willsign autographs next Monday, December 14, at the Southland Mall Raider Image in Hayward, Calif. from 6 - 8:00 p.m.
Groups of 10 or more can also buy tickets to the remaining two Raiders home games against the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Toys for Tots Program. This offer is only available by calling 1-800-RAIDERS.
Donations will also be taken at this Sunday's home game against the Washington Redskins. Marines will be stationed at West Side Plaza, near BART entrance, Gates A, B, C, and D, before and after the game. In addition to new, unwrapped toys, monetary donations will be accepted.
You can also make a donation online today in $1 increments to help send a child to the January 3rd Raiders home game against the Baltimore Ravens. Click here to donate online...