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Toys for Tots takes hit from Toys R Us closing

When Toys R Us closed, Toys for Tots felt the loss.

The toy giant's decision to close its stores this year left some huge holes for the annual charity drive to fill.

Toys R Us shoppers donated more than 250,000 toys last year and the company gave $5 million in corporate contributions - 40 percent of all corporate giving to the Marine Corps community effort.

The company's 800 stores usually had boxes near the doors where customers could toss a toy on their way out. They also took monetary donations.

From Florida to Spokane, Washington, several Toys for Tots campaigns say the closures hurt. In Orlando, for example, donations were down 25 percent. In Bakersfield, California, the local group reported being 10,000 toys down earlier this month.

Cherrie Carney, assistant director for the Atlanta campaign, said her city needed 268,000 more toys earlier this week. She said donations collected at local Toys R Us stores would fill a large tractor-trailer or more each year.

"We are hopeful that all of our contributors just went somewhere else, got a toy from Kroger or Publix ... Target or Walmart since Toys R Us is not available," she said.

Toys for Tots national spokesman Ted Silvester said losing Toys R Us was a "tough pill." But he said other corporate sponsors such as Hasbro, Disney and Build-A-Bear helped fill the void while Marine units asked the public for more individual donations. In some cities it's too late to donate toys this year, but monetary donations are accepted to buy last-minute gifts.

Silvester said while it won't be known until next month whether the Toys R Us closure resulted in an overall drop nationally in presents donated, numerous cities like New York and Detroit required additional toys. So did regions hit by disasters this year, such as Northern California and the Carolinas.

He said the national Toys for Tots Foundation assists any of the 809 local drives that need additional gifts. Toys for Tots distributed 18 million toys to 7 million children across the U.S. last year.

"The loss of Toys R Us hurt but we hope we will be able to meet the needs of all the families this holiday season," Silvester said.

Toys R Us closed in June after filing for bankruptcy last year, unable to compete with online retailers and discount stores like Target and Walmart. More than 30,000 workers lost jobs.

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