The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program distributed Christmas gifts to about 30,000 children last year, aided mightily by readers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette who donated to the Goodfellows Fund.
The children and their families are grateful for the high-quality items purchased and distributed by Military Police Company Bravo, based in North Versailles -- board games, puzzles, dolls, toy trucks and sports gear, to name a few.
Because of the increased need in these difficult economic times, the Marines are limited in what they buy -- bicycles, for instance, are beyond the reach of the program.
Several years ago, Al Todd of Hampton decided to do something about that.
He was speaking with a corps member at a Toys for Tots luncheon and learned that while bikes were the most cherished item among the children served by the program, the Marines could only distribute those that were donated.
So he launched Al's Bike Drive, which this year will culminate in what he calls a "Beverly Hillbillies"-style caravan on Tuesday from Toys R Us on McKnight Road in Ross to the Sheraton Hotel Station Square. Volunteers with pickup trucks and SUVs will deliver the bikes.
"To me, that day is one of the best days of the holiday season," he said.
In the first year of the program, Mr. Todd raised enough for 33 bikes. The total has grown annually, to 200 last year, and this year he expects to reach his goal of 300.
"I'm happy to report we're on target right now despite an economically challenging year," he said.
Mr. Todd, a financial planner, works for Thrivent Financial, which is matching all donations to the bike drive. A $90 contribution buys a child a bike and Thrivent purchases a second one. The Web address for the campaign is www.alsbikedrive.org.
He also seeks volunteers to help transport the bicycles Tuesday.
"One of the driving forces for me is that I feel I've been blessed -- my life, my family, my career," Mr. Todd said. "This is a way for my family to give something back."
Al's Bike Drive is part of a regionwide team effort that includes scores of nonprofit and charitable organizations and hundreds of volunteers, all working to ensure that needy children can experience the joy and magic of Christmas.
The Goodfellows Fund, created in 1947, provides support to Toys for Tots and The Salvation Army's Treasures for Children program. To make a tax-deductible contribution, use the coupon that accompanies this story or visit www.post-gazette.com/goodfellows. All donations are acknowledged in the newspaper.
Today's total: $5,001.11
Grand total: $13,684.11
John Simon $500 Brad & Ali Cameron $250
Krik Lamagna $200 Anonymous $200
Richard G. Almes/ Almes Enterprises $200
In honor of Ben, Finley, Hazel & Jack $200
Dale F. Molt & Linda M. Ricketts $150
In memory of Glenn and Mary Joyce Neuf $100 Anonymous $100 In memory of my beloved Duffie $100
Matthew & Christine Stromberg $100 Paula Gardner $100 In memory of Rex Rowland$100
St. Basil Sabers $100 Jean Picone $100 Rob Shetler $100 Chris & Steve Schrom $100 Rev. John B. Lendvai $100 William J. Fedorka $100 Jim Howell $100 Harry Schaefer $75
In memory of Joe & Minnie Nichol and Fran & Kay Kitchen $70
In memory of Margaret Gunter $60 In memory of Clyde Finney $60 The Slowey Family $50
In memory of Nona & Elmer Burger $50 Ken Buettner $50 Barb & Dave Grover $50
In honor of the Allan grandchildren $50 Mary Towner $50
In honor of Washington Financial Bank, Main Street Branch Tellers and CSRs $50 Kenneth Kaufman$50 Teresa Walton$50 Donald J. Walsh$50 Paul Bucciarelli $50 In memory of Marie Lydon $50
In honor of Pappy and Grammas girls Tori, Ashlee, Juliana, Bella, Gabby$50 Anonymous $50 Eugene T. Murphy $50 In honor of Robert P. Bock $50 Jim Stafford $50 Linda & Carl Reisacher $50 Judi & Iz Rudoy $50 Dave Lebec $50 Carol Meek $50 Albert Rorer $40 Mr. & Mrs. Joseph J. Fabry $35 Patricia O'Connell $35
In loving memory of John A. Kadrauy from The Betkers $30 Dan & Eloisa Stewart $30 Mr. & Mrs. John S. Parish $25 Mr.& Mrs. Paul Donatelli $25
In loving memory of Maddox Derkosh $25 Robert & Cristine Tarpey $25 Gerry Deutsch $25
In loving memory of Barbara Kohler $25 M. Taylor $25 Edward Barrett $25 Dennis & Joan Wrona $25 M. J. Dockman $25 Tony M. Costanzo $25 Joe Takacs $25 N. Beck $20 Anne Kravetz $20
In memory of Frank & Kathryn Pope $20 Danica Natale $20 In memory of Bob Cisar $20 Gwen Nash $20 Cindy Miller $20 Paul Inzinga $15 Mike Cherepko $11.11 Kathlyne Zimmerman $10 Ann Conner $10
In memory of Lyle & Ethel Geiger and Marie McCleary $10 In honor of Josiah Vaughn $10 Ronald K. Wollett $10
Jon Schmitz: email@example.com or 412-263-1868. First Published December 6, 2012 5:00 AM