The sound of the U.S. Marine “oorah” battle cry along with the aroma of barbecued chicken, baked beans and grilling corn floated over the 5200 block of 26th Street West early Sunday afternoon.
The whiffs and sounds attracted paramedics Troy Dufrane and Jordan Christy from nearby Cedar Hammock Fire Department who drove their ambulance to the source, which was the Marine Corps League Desoto Detachment, 5225 26th St. W., commonly known as “the Bunker.”
Actually, Dufrane and Christy had known about Sunday’s Marine Corps League “Christmas in July” cookout which was creating those alluring smells and battle cries from noon to 2 p.m.
The paramedic partners had purchased a couple of small airplanes, actually gliders, for kids.
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“We never know what is going on with some of the kids and some of the families in our county at Christmas time,” Dufrane said as he handed the toys off to the Marines. “It’s always nice to give back to the community and donate some toys for less fortunate kids.”
The event was held to gather toys and donations for Toys for Tots, which the Marines have supported in Manatee County for 25 years.
Besides some new and unwrapped toys, about 125 people each paid $10 so the Marines can buy more toys, said Bradenton’s Michael McClain, who is second in command at the detachment.
McClain ran Toys for Tots for the detachment the past seven years but handed off Toys for Tots off this year to the new detachment commandant, Michael Montoleleone.
“It is the most gratifying, rewarding thing I have ever done in my life, except marry my wife,” McClain said of bringing toys to kids at Christmas. “To knock on someone’s door on Christmas eve and give them toys they didn’t know they would receive, tears flow from both us and them. It is just wonderful, a wonderful thing to do.”
Guests at the event heard members of the Bunker “oorah” every time something good happened.
Although no one is exactly sure who was the first person to say “oorah” and what, exactly it means, all the Marines at the Bunker agreed it had to come from the bottom of the lungs.
“It has to come from the diaphragm,” said Bradenton’s Tony Rosado, a Marine and a Bunker member who drives a route for Toys for Tots.
When Rosado demonstrated his oorah from down deep in his chest Sunday, several non-Marines in the Bunker jumped as if a bomb had gone off.
Also, the spelling of oorah is not in stone and has been seen as oohrah and ooh-rah, but never “hoo-ah,” which the Marines said was an Army version.
Toys for Tots is run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, and the main function of the program is to get toys to children whose parents have hardships and are not able to provide toys at Christmas time, McClain said.
“I can’t say enough about what the Marines are doing here,” said cookout guest Richard Barra. “My dad was a World War II Marine, and my wife is a retired major.”
Glenn Weik was at the cookout. He is an associate member of the Bunker and has decided that Toys for Tots is his volunteer cause.
“This is my way of giving back,” said Weik who attended the cookout with his wife, Georgetta. “We had a great toy drive last year and we are looking forward to a better year this year.”
In Manatee County, Toys for Tots has been successful, averaging about 50,000 new and unwrapped toys per year, McClain said.
Marines like McClain actually deliver the toys to the children starting a few weeks before Christmas “Santa style,” with a bag slung over their shoulders.
“A combination of Marines and volunteers distribute the toys every year,” McClain added.
“The adult should let us know how many children in the family, what ages, boys or girls, and what kind of hardship they are experiencing,” McClain said.
Toys for Tots
To request toys for needy children: Parents or others are asked to either go on line to toysfortots.org and make the request or write a letter about the children and send it to The Marine Corps League Detachment 588, 5225 26th St. W., Bradenton, FL.
To donate new unwrapped toys: Drop them off in Toys for Tots donation sites around the county or, to hear an “oorah” from an actual Marine, take them to the detachment during the week.