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Mon Valley Leathernecks accomplish mission with toy collection

| Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
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Monongahela Valley Hospital employees filled a box truck with new toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots program. Needy children in the Mon Valley received the bikes and toys in the program coordinated by the Mon Valley Leathernecks. This is the 27th year that Monongahela Valley Hospital employees have been helping support children in the communities served by the hospital. Before loading the truck, MVH Toys For Tots Assistant Chairman Doug Prentice (center) pauses with Mon Valley Leathernecks’ Tony Menendez of Donora, (left) and Tim Durka of Donora. MVH Toys for Tots Chairman John Bogdan is missing from the photo.

Some children left a local Toys for Tots drive empty-handed last year because there weren't enough toys, but this year enhanced collection efforts furnished toys for 1,400 children.

“We had a wonderful year,” said Wally Fronzaglio, a member of the Mon Valley Leathernecks and chairman of the military group's Toys for Tots committee. “It was one of our best years for collections.

The Leathernecks, a 167-member group of former Marines, have been hosting the Toys for Tots collection for decades. Founded in 1947, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program distributes new toys as Christmas gifts to children in need.

Children hailing from across the region gathered Dec. 21 at the Donora Fire Hall to collect their gifts. Volunteers led the kids into the toy room, sans parents, to choose any toys they liked. This year, they chose from a selection of bicycles, Barbie dolls, stuffed animals, sleds and skateboards donated by fellow residents.

“The kids get to pick whatever they want. ... I think we have more toys than Wal-Mart,” Fronzaglio said, laughing.

But last Christmas, for some unknown reason, collections lagged.

“We ran out of toys. We weren't able to take care of all the children,” he said. “Last year was very heartbreaking. Last year was the first time we ran out of toys and still had children sitting outside waiting for toys. It kind of tore at my heart strings.”

Fronzaglio said he told the community about the troubles, and they responded by providing a “tremendous” amount of toys for 2013.

To raise money for toys, coal mining groups took up collections, a motorcycle club hosted a charity bike ride, and others planned spaghetti dinners.

Staff at Monongahela Valley Hospital deserve credit, he said, for their efforts to collect a truckload of gifts.

“I went to Mon Valley Hospital and cried on their shoulders,” Fronzaglio said. “They were the first ones that really dug in deep. They swore that that wasn't going to happen again this year.”

Hospital employees filled a box truck with new toys for the Toys for Tots program. It's the 27th year hospital employees have supported local children in local communities, a hospital news release stated.

“You don't know how grateful I am, especially (for) the hospital,” Fronzaglio said. “They were the start of all this.”

Worldwide, Toys for Toys has given 470 million toys since it began a half-century ago.

Locally, the Leathernecks again will collect toys for children later this year.

“It is a great program,” Fronzaglio said, “and it's been going on for years.”

Rossilynne Skena Culgan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

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