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Westover kicks off Toys for Tots

THE HOLIDAYS ARE APPROACHING AND ONE WAY TO SPREAD SOME CHEER IS THROUGH TOYS FOR TOTS - A PROGRAM THAT HAS PROVIDED MILLIONS OF NEEDY CHILDREN WITH TOYS SINCE 1947. THIS YEAR, MARINES STATIONED AT WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, KICKED OFF THE TOYS FOR TOTS SEASON WITH A GATHERING AT SPRINGFIELD CITY HALL.

WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. --

The holidays are approaching and one way to spread some cheer is through Toys for Tots - a program that has provided millions of needy children with toys since 1947. This year, Marines stationed at Westover Air Reserve Base kicked off the Toys for Tots season with a gathering at Springfield City Hall.

"We had a great kickoff event this morning with the mayor of Springfield," said U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Michael Vopal, Western Massachusetts Toys for Tots coordinator. " He was able to say some facts about the Toys for Tots Foundation and bring in the superintendent for Springfield Public Schools and also Veteran Affairs. They were able to go in there and hand me the first official toy of the season. That way, we have our first official toy and we can actually start collecting."

"We're happy to be a part of it in the city of Springfield and the Springfield School Department," said Dan Warwick, Springfield Public Schools superintendent. "It's our kids that benefit from this and I think every child should have a toy at Christmas and it's just a wonderful thing. We're happy to be a part of it and very appreciative."

Now that the campaign has officially begun, Vopal and his team hope to match last year's donations.

"In the previous years, I have seen this area has had up to 60,000 children apply and be able to receive toys," said Vopal. "I'd like to at least match that number."

Western Massachusetts families interested in receiving a toy should visit https://westernmass.toysfortots.org/ and fill out a request form.

"I can't help them if they don't apply," said Vopal. "I'd like every child that needs a toy to apply. That way, we can track them, help them and get them the toy they deserve for Christmas."

Westover Air Reserve Base personnel are encouraged to participate in the toy drive. Drop boxes are located around base, including the Marine building, Fitness Center and Base Headquarters.

"We ask for a new, unwrapped toys to please be delivered to one of our drop sites," said Vopal. "That way we can collect it, account for it and get it out to the families before the 24th of December. The Toys for Tots program is the foundation for us giving back and keeping us here helping out the local community."