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Toys For Tots Kicks Off Season Of Giving

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The holiday season is synonymous with giving back, and one sign of the times is the U.S. Marine Corps' annual Toys for Tots drive, which kicked off on Long Island Monday.

More than 200 children were joined by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, and members of the Marines at an event in Baldwin to celebrate the launch of this year's drive.

The Long Island division of Toys for Tots collects toys from communities all across the Island, which are then handed out to underprivileged children by members of the armed services.

The owner of The Coral House, where Monday's event was held, said he was happy to help out any way he could.

"The campaign goes from now till a week before Christmas, and we're asking the public to go to either their local post office, fire department, police department where there is a box there and give one, brand new, unwrapped toy -- or as many as they'd like to give -- so they can all be put together and supplied to families that need it," Butch Yamali said.

During the event, the Marines also announced the start of a new program called L.I. Wedding for Warriors, which aims to help servicemen and women planning special occasions while serving overseas.

In New York City, Toys for Tots has partnered with the Secret Sandy Claus Project and We Care New York this season to bring even more children gifts for the holidays.

The Secret Sandy Claus Project was created in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 as a way to bring toys and cheer to families struggling to recover from the storm.

In 2013, the organization expanded its reach in an effort to help Sandy victims on a much broader scale by supplying Sandy relief hubs with bulk deliveries of food, water, furniture, clothing and other much-needed items.

The Founder and CEO of the Secret Sandy Claus Project, Michael Sciaraffo, said though in the past they have helped victims of Superstorm Sandy, through the partnership with Toys for Tots, they will be able to help children in all kinds of circumstances.

"What we really want to emphasize with this partnership is that we can not only help children affected by Sandy now, but any child who's less fortunate," Sciaraffo said. "And it really doesn't make a difference what their challenges are, but we want to be able to help them."

Web Extra: Toys for Tots | We Care New YorkSecret Sandy Claus Project

We Care New York, which coordinates outreach services and assists in ensuring resources are available for less fortunate communities, also began in the wake of devastation from Sandy.

"We Care NY's role will be to provide the logistical support and assisting with the recruitment and coordination of volunteer teams that will be helping the Marines at their facility at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. By joining forces with NYC Marines Toys for Tots, we can share our organization's resources and talents, helping many more people in need and expanding our network into as many communities as we can", said Michael Taylor, President of We Care New York. "Many more children who are less fortunate will be smiling this holiday season as a result of our new partnership, our shared goals and collective efforts. Helping those in need is really what it is all about."

We Care New York is seeking volunteers to assist in the new partnership with Secret Sandy Claus Project and Toys for Tots. Volunteers are needed to unload, sort, inspect, and package toys for pick up.

Toys for Tots is the largest holiday toy drive program for children in the nation.

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