BRADENTON -- All for the children.
The Bradenton Marauders will collect toys for Manatee County's needy children from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at "Marty's Toy Drive" at Pirate City, 1701 27th St. E., Bradenton.
The free event, the first of its kind for the minor league baseball team, is in partnership with the Salvation Army in Bradenton.
There will be a complimentary breakfast for donors, their choice of a promotional item from the team's treasure chest and a free entry into a raffle for a Pirates prize pack, which includes four tickets to a spring training game at McKechnie Field and a ball autographed by Pirates All-Star Andrew McCutchen.
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Attendees can also take a photo with team mascot, Marty the Marauder, who will be dressed in a Santa Claus outfit as "Marty Claus."
"We're hoping for a large turnout and we're hoping to get a lot of donations because there's a lot of children in Manatee County who can benefit from this," said Nate March, Bradenton Marauders coordinator of communications. "The toys that are donated are going to help Salvation Army's Adopt A Family program. This is going to directly benefit families of Manatee County."
Through the Adopt A Family program, donors can choose a family in need to give gifts to during the holiday season. According to Christine Smith, director of community relations and development for Salvation Army in Bradenton, the program was initially backed by an independent organization known as Adopt a Family of Manatee County.
"Last year was the first year that the Salvation Army operated the program. The volunteers came to us and asked us if we would take on the program, knowing that they didn't want to leave those children without being served," Smith said.
Smith described the Bradenton Marauders as a longstanding partner with the Salvation Army.
"We've partnered with them for various things over the years," she said. "They wanted to do a charity toy drive and reached out to us and it just became the perfect fit with our Adopt A Family program."
She said her organization has nearly 2,000 children registered for the program this year. Ages range from infant to 14 years, she added.
"We're just really looking forward to the continued partnership with the Marauders. ... and reaching the community in a different way," Smith said. "This is a new opportunity to reach out to the community and let them know that there are still needs in this county -- there are still things that our community can do to help."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.