Toys for Tots 2021

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Jeff Bahr

The Marines landed in Grand Island Wednesday, bringing toys for area children.

Two men and a truck made the delivery, and Heartland United Way, as usual, was glad to see them.

The gifts made up about half of the items distributed Friday at the annual Toys for Tots distribution. The other half are collected in Heartland United Way’s four-county area.

Parents selected the toys from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Pinnacle Bank Expo Center. The project is a joint effort between the Marines and Heartland United Way.

About 100 volunteers were making the event successful.

“We have a good time,” said Cammie Benson of Heartland United Way. “We’re excited to provide this service to the community for people who maybe need a lift up this holiday season.” United Way is “happy to do it,” she said.

Benson believed it was Grand Island’s 24th annual Toys for Tots. The event typically serves 1,000 families, which include 2,400 to 2,500 kids.

Children up to 7 get two toys each. Kids 8 to 12 get one toy.

That’s not all. “The families get a board game and they get a puzzle or art item. And then they get to go home with some socks, too,” Benson said.

Each kid also gets a stocking stuffer.

For the children, the gifts are a surprise. Parents come to Toys for Tots without children. If kids do come along, they’re kept in a separate part of the building.

Volunteers help the parents pick out gifts.

One of them, Krystal Vodehnal, has been helping at Toys for Toys for about 15 years.

“It’s a good feeling at this time of year to be able to help those that are less fortunate — just to put a smile on a person’s face on Christmas morning,” she said.

Volunteering at Toys for Tots has become a family tradition for Vodehnal, her daughter and her mother.

Her daughter, Kylie, worked alongside her for eight hours Friday. It was about the seventh year in a row for Kylie, 23. “She really likes to volunteer and give back at this time of year also,” said Vodehnal, who works at Principal.

Vodehnal’s mother, LeRoyce Roberts, volunteered for four hours Friday. She’s helped out for four years.

Vodehnal doesn’t mind being on her feet for eight hours.

Like other Principal employees, she’s working at home now. So it’s nice to be around people, she said.

Just knowing that she’s helping is a good feeling, she said.