the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release

REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY AT TOYS FOR TOTS SERVICE PROJECT

2:38 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Hello everyone, how are you all doing?  You excited?  It's almost Christmas!  Do you feel the excitement? 

CHILDREN:  Yes!

MRS. OBAMA:  Yes?  Are you guys out of school yet?  Are you on vacation? 

CHILDREN:  No.

MRS. OBAMA:  When do you get out?  On Friday, tomorrow?

CHILDREN:  Yes!

MRS. OBAMA:  Will you be excited about that?

CHILDREN:  Yes!

MRS. OBAMA:  Yes, me too.  Thumbs up, thumbs up.  (Laughter.) 

Well it is always a pleasure to be here with you all.  And I just want to say on behalf of my family, what we do is a drop in the bucket of what happens -- what you all do to make this happen.  And it is always an honor and a privilege for me to play this small role to do whatever I can to lift up this effort at the very end of the drive to make sure that we get our numbers and that folks are aware. 

But I want to start by, of course, thanking Lieutenant General Osman, not just for his kind introduction, but for his passionate leadership of Toys for Tots.  He is a phenomenal spokesperson, and a true believer in the meaning of Christmas, and that is giving back to families and children in need.  So I think we should give him a round of applause.  (Applause.)  It's always a pleasure working with you. 

And I also want to recognize Staff Sergeant Perez -- yes, indeed -- (applause) -- who is leading up this effort.  As you all know, she is your fearless leader in this effort, and you all sacrifice so much I'm sure your family hasn't seen much of you because you've been here making this happen.  So I want to personally thank you, as well as all of the other Marines who have been a part of this effort.  You all are outstanding individuals, and I'm very proud and honored. 

I also want to thank Lieutenant Colonel Strickland as well, for his outstanding leadership not just here in Washigton, but across this country; and also, Captain Calandra for hosting us here at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling today.  Thank you, as always.  It's good to be back.  It feels like home.  So thank you for making this happen. 

One other thing that I want to mention -- I hear that there are four Marines at this base that just returned home from Afghanistan last week, right in time for the holidays.  So I just want to take a moment to say on behalf of myself and my husband, your Commander-In-Chief, welcome home.  We're glad to have you back.  Where are -- do we have these individuals here?  Let's see who you are.  Yes!  (Applause.)  Welcome home.  We've got five of them.  We are so proud.  We are grateful for your service.  And we're just so glad you could be home in time for the holidays.  Thank you all so much, we're really proud.  And thank your families, as well. 

And finally, I want to thank all of you and all of the volunteers and donors for Toys for Tots running year after year.  One thing I always say is that I don’t know if people realize everything it takes to make this happen -- the thousands of hours that go into making this drive possible.  I think people just see the nice commercials, they donate a toy, and they think magically it just happens. 

But the truth is that you all spend hours manning those donation boxes in the freezing cold, you then spend hundreds of hours sorting those toys by age so that it make it easier for those toys to get to the kids that need them.  And then you do the work of actually getting those toys out there.  It is a herculean task, and you all do it with grace and poise and efficiency, just like the Marines.  So it's good that you all are handling this.

And because of all of you, the work that you do, Toys for Tots has grown from collecting 5,000 toys starting back in 1947 when this program, this initiative first started, to collecting nearly 16.8 million toys last year.  That’s how much this effort has grown over the decades, and it's because of you.

And that kind of success, the kind of dedication to the mission and your commitment to service, that’s really the reflection of the spirit that I see in military families all across this country.  That’s why one of my most important issues is working for your families, Jill Biden and I.  Because we see that commitment and dedication in every single thing you do.  And the holiday season is just one more reason for you all to find a reason to serve this nation. 

And I always want people to know that you're doing this on top of the stresses and challenges that you all face just every day as families -- don’t worry about it.  Your mom is about to get you.  (Laughter.)  They are still children.  I see you, you've got a dagger in the back of his head.  (Laughter.)  You've got to watch it.  Mom's still watching you.  (Laughter.)  But the kids are involved, too, because while you're doing this work, you're not spending time with them.

What most people have to understand is these men and women and their spouses, they're doing this maybe in the face of the fifth or sixth deployment that their family is experiencing.  You're doing it all on top of maybe trying to still unpack from your most recent move to another base.  You're trying to get your lives in order, scrambling once again to enroll your kids in another school.  Maybe your spouse has just returned home and your family is still readjusting.

Most people don’t understand that you do all of this service on top of all of the challenges that you face as servicemembers and as military families.  And that’s the example that I think the rest of the country needs to see -- that even in the midst of your challenges, you find a way to give back to those less fortunate. 

And that’s what makes me proud.  That’s what makes me want to step up and do whatever I can to support this effort and to support you all as men and women, and as young men and women -- young heroes, our military kids, who do so much sacrificing.  And I really don’t know how you all do it.  I am amazed, I'm fascinated.  But I am grateful that you are who you are, and that you make those sacrifices. 

So I just want to make sure that while we have our press here that we make sure that people know that Toys for Tots is still looking for donations.  We are -- these folks work until the bitter end.  And if you want to donate, you can go to the Toys for Tots website, you can donate online.  Or you can look up the nearest location in your community online, and just use the drop-off method. 

I try to emphasize each year sort of the age groups that are falling short, and I understand from General Osman that this year, we're still looking for gifts for kids -- young infants 0-2.  Those are the gifts that folks need.  And also, I always try to make a push for our teenagers, because oftentimes we forget that these families are made of all ages.  And it's fun to buy the Barbie doll and the cute little toy, but there are a lot of young people out there who are going to need toys and who go without. 

And that’s one of the areas -- when we do donations from our family, we try to hit the teenage market.  I've got teenagers, and if anybody is thinking of ideas, just think of your own teen, what do they need.  They want clothes; girls want makeup; maybe they need a nice pair of shoes, a good coat, any kind of electronic gadget, something for their education.  Just think about what your teens need, and that’s the same thing that these young people need on this holiday season.

So I hope, for those of you who are still out there watching, that you know these donations are real.  They go to real families.  And we need your help and support.  So go to the Toys for Tots website and make it happen.  We still have a few more days, right, to make it happen.

So again, I want to thank you all.  And I think it's time for us to get to work, don’t you think?  We're going to start with the young people in the front row.  I'm going to come and collect some gifts from you guys, and then we'll get to sorting. 

You guys, thank you again.  Happy holidays.  You all be safe, be good -- because Santa is still watching.  (Laughter.)

                        END                2:47 P.M. EST

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