Toys for Tots Family Fun Day coming to Windsor Castle Park

Published 5:09 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Toys for Tots, the Marine Corps Reserve’s flagship Christmas charity, will host its inaugural Foster Family Fun Day at Smithfield’s Windsor Castle Park on June 1 for Virginia Department of Social Services-involved children across Hampton Roads.

Toys for Tots is expanding into year-round programs for children in foster care. A 2022 kickoff event in Warner Robins, Georgia, distributed over 400 backpacks filled with toys, books and school supplies. Similar distribution events in Buena Park, California; Quincy, Illinois; Mount Laurel, New Jersey; and Tuscon, Arizona reached an additional 4,100 foster children in 2023.

Toys for Tots’  Smithfield chapter, which operates out of Caliber Collision on South Church Street, distributed 10,829 toys to 6,304 children across Isle of Wight, Surry, Southampton, Sussex and Prince George counties and the city of Emporia in 2023.

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“We know the need is around all year long,” said Smithfield Area Coordinator Elizabeth Moose.

Isle of Wight, she said, is home to an estimated 25 foster families and another roughly 200 children in “kinship,” which occurs when the extended family of a child removed from his or her parents by Social Services petitions the court for custody.

Toys for Tots chose the 18th-century Windsor Castle manor house grounds at Windsor Castle Park for the Hampton Roads kickoff of its year-round programs for the site’s proximity to the nonprofit’s area headquarters at Caliber and its central location within the Hampton Roads region, Moose said.

The goal of the inaugural Foster Family Fun Day, she said, is to invite as many foster families as possible from across Hampton Roads and outlying rural areas to a day of activities that will include fishing, a golf putting contest, basketball hoops and traditional yard games like three-legged races.

The event is open to any child or teen age 18 and under in foster care or kinship. Each child who attends will receive a backpack filled with toys, books and school supplies, provided they register online or call ahead of time.

“We’re trying to get a head count,” Moose said.

Families can register at or by calling 757-880-7191. Those looking to volunteer or donate can also call Moose at the above number.


Focusing on foster care

According to Tidewater Friends of Foster Care, a Norfolk-based nonprofit, there are between 750 and 800 children in foster care in the cities of Hampton Roads at any given time. Historically, more than 25% of Virginia’s foster youth will live in four or more different homes over two years.

“When I became the president and CEO of Toys for Tots, I knew we could be more than a Christmastime charity,” said retired Lt. Gen. James Laster, CEO of Toys for Tots, in a news release. “I wanted to involve the entire community to assist us in providing items such as backpacks and educational toys, books and other gifts.”


Who’s participating?

The foster care initiative, like Toys for Tots’ Christmastime program, enlists support from other organizations.

The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office will bring a rock-climbing wall and K-9 demonstration to the June 1 event. The Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department will also be on site with a dunk tank, Moose said.

“Gunney Bear,” Toys for Tots’ national mascot, is also scheduled to make an appearance.

Weichert Realtors KBL Companies is assisting with fundraising and providing volunteers to work the event. Some area businesses and churches plan to collect items to stuff backpacks.

Toys for Tots is still soliciting event sponsorships. According to a donation form, contributions of $100 or more earn the donor a banner sign at the event. Donors who contribute $500 or more get to operate an event booth and may be included in print advertising. Donors who contribute $1,000 or more get even more print advertising, and major sponsors who contribute $5,000 or more get maximum advertising exposure and prime placement at the event.

Monetary donations can be made by a check payable to Toys for Tots and mailed to Elizabeth Moose, P.O. Box 327, Rescue, VA 23424.


What about non-monetary donations?

Community members who wish to donate items for the backpacks can drop off summer items like hats, sunglasses and beach towels, books, backpacks, indoor or outdoor toys and games, and toiletry items like shampoo, soap, sunscreen and deodorant can drop them off at Caliber Collision, Moose said. The Smithfield chapter is collecting items for ages 0-18.