By Glenn Pew, Contributing Editor, Video Editor
Saturday, December 13th, a four hour event organized at a little airport in Southern California brought together local fire bomber crews, private pilots, Marines and local residents and resulted in a seven-ton Marine truck full of toys destined for those children less fortunate. The Toys For Tots drive is an annual Marine Corps event in the area and was organized this year at Ramona Airport northeast of San Diego by airport manager Bo Donovan. In issuing his invitation, Donovan had requested that pilots spread the word at schools, churches, and with "everyone you see, everywhere you go." Near the end of the invitation Donovan finished with a flourish of local pride with, "Let's show this community just how BIG our hearts are at Ramona Airport." To add to the attraction Donovan requested that one local pilot bring his Stinson and another to park his Mustang out on the ramp. The vehicles, he said, would be matched with Marine Corps hardware and flanked by Marines in their Dress Blues. Adding to the good cheer, volunteers would manage a cookout on the ramp. That was the call, and this past Saturday, the community answered. At Ramona, the Marines' truck was so overstuffed with new toys that one of the men in blue had to find another ride home. According to one local pilot, "I think this day is what I'll remember about Christmas this year ... and what I'll always love about this airport. I can't imagine it gets better than this!" But, in fact, it does get better.
After the event, Donovan wrote in an e-mail, "There are even more toys in the back of my car I'll deliver Monday." And all were collected on an uncommon day of IFR weather at a single-runway airport in Southern California. Organizations contributing to the event included CalFire, the aviation fire protection wing based at the airport, whose members "passed the hat and went on a shopping spree at Kmart to fill their van with toys." An entire box of toys was filled by pilots at another local airport and flown in on Friday. And, according to Donovan, "one family gave up their Christmas," pooled their money "and gave it all to us." Lastly, one man "came with a small set of airplanes from the 99 Cent store, because it was all he could give ... but he gave," said Donovan. The story is like many others across the nation this season, but for those of you who'd like to bring a story like this home to your local airport, you may want to start with a look at Donovan's invitation:
Saturday, December 13th from 10am through 2pm will be our 2nd annual Tots For Tots drive at Ramona Airport.
There will be a static display of aircraft on the Transient Ramp, a cook out for all volunteers, fly-in pilots and the owners of the display aircraft. The Marines will be here with one of their Hummers and will lookin' sharp in their Dress Blues, collecting toys.
How can you participate?
- Bring a toy and tell everyone you know, and have them tell everyone they know, about this event and have them bring a toy. Tell your schools, service clubs, churches and everyone you see, everywhere you go. A drop box will be available soon at Pacific Executive Aviation.
- Volunteer. We could use help with the cook-out, vehicle parking, toy drop off stations, aircraft parking, etc. Please Contact Jaye Matthews at ###-####.
- Bring your airplane over for static display. Jaye, bring over that Stinson. Chuck, we'd love to have your Mustang there, Classic Rotors, bring one over.
- Spread the word to every pilot you know and invite them over. Have them fly in and bring toys. Dick Bradshaw. tell all your buddies at Gillespie Field to come on up.
This year in particular, our help is really needed. The economy has made fund-raising for charities even more difficult, and the unemployment rate is at a nearly all-time high. But we can make this a better Christmas for a whole lot of kids and their families. Even if it's just a little something from the 99-Cent Store. Any effort on your part will go a long way. For some of these kids, your toy will be their only gift this Christmas.
The Ramona Airport will be the only official Toys For Tots location in Ramona this year. Let's show this community just how BIG our hearts are at Ramona Airport. We're all gonna be real tired at the end of that Saturday, but we're gonna feel real good about what we've done for these kids.
If you have questions or comments, please call me at ###-####. That's my cell ... anytime, day or night.