BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A steady stream of determined fans trudged through the snow outside TD Ballpark Saturday morning, carrying bags and boxes of donated toys inside to the Somerset Patriots gift shop where they were handed off to three US Marines in dress blue uniforms who were collecting Toys for Tots.
The Marines were assisted by Santa, team mascot Sparkee and his namesake, manager emeritus Sparky Lyle, and Patriots front office staff.
The toys were boxed for transport and carried outside to a 15-foot box truck for loading; the Marines headed back to their central Toys for Tots depot in Metuchen where the donations will be sorted and added to the growing inventory that will be distributed to needy children throughout central New Jersey in time for the holiday season.
Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, founded in 1947 by reservist Major Bill Hendricks in California. Since then, the nationwide program has collected and distributed more than 512 million toys, as of 2016.