MANATEE -- As Marc Kassel was shopping at Toys R Us Tuesday night for gifts to donate to Toys for Tots, it dawned on him that he was about to make a lot of Manatee County kids happy.
Kassel, who works in sales at Cox Chevrolet, 2900 Cortez Road, along with a couple other people went on a shopping spree with money raised at Manasota Truck Night at Desoto Speedway on Dec. 20.
The more than 500 toys were then loaded into the bed of a red Chevrolet truck in the dealership's showroom. The toys were presented to the Manatee County Toys for Tots, which is run by Marine Corps League Desoto Detachment 588, at the car dealership on Christmas Eve.
This is in addition to the 216 toys already donated by Truck Night attendees.
"Manatee County has just stepped up to the plate as they always have and we have done it," said Mike McClain, coordinator for Manatee County Toys for Tots. "Our goal is to make sure no child goes without at least
two to three toys under the tree, and I believe we have done that."
Retired Marines, along with Cox staff, loaded the toys into the back of trucks to take them to the Florida Department of Children and Families in Palmetto, where they were running low on toys. There was still a need of toys before Christmas morning.
As of Tuesday evening, there were at least 60 families through DCF in need of toys. Toys for Tots has given toys to DCF in Palmetto for close to 1,000 Manatee County families, McClain said.
Since Thanksgiving, Manatee County Toys for Tots volunteers -- mostly U.S. Marines, active-duty and retired -- have been delivering toys to Manatee County families to ensure that they have gifts under the tree for the children on Christmas morning.
This year, Manatee County Toys for Tots estimated that they delivered almost 50,000 toys to Manatee County families. In the United States, 500 million toys are collected each year for 13 million children.
"We are very happy with the program and very excited to be giving back to the community and give some toys to some underprivileged kids," said John Rudd, general sales manager at Cox Chevrolet.
Kassel already has his eyes set on next Christmas.
"We are doing this again," he said as he looked at the more than $3,000 worth of toys. "We are coming back."
Claire Aronson, University Parkway/Sarasota reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.