MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Christmas is synonymous with the giving spirit. Marines are no different when it comes to giving, whether it is their lives in the defense of freedom or time to help make sure all children have something under the tree at Christmas.
Marines from Detachment 2, Supply Company, 4th Supply Battalion have worked for several months in their annual Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program to collect toys for needy families.
One major part of the Toys for Tots Program is the Sixth Annual Marine Corps Reserve and Clear Channel Broadcasting's Bikes or Bust Drive in Albany.
Suspended 100 feet above the local Wal-Mart Super Center parking lot inside a camper, Cpl. Ben Patat, a supply clerk at the reserve unit here, and Adam Kelly of B-100, one of Clear Channel's local radio stations, rallied the community into donating bicycles or making donations toward the goal.
Although the drive is an Albany endeavor, the Marines and Clear Channel personnel decided to raise money for bicycles in the surrounding area also. For the last two weeks of November, volunteers solicited donations at the Wal-Mart stores in Moultrie, Ga., and Tifton, Ga.
According to Kelly, volunteers raised more than $1,400 in the Tifton community and $1,100 in the Moultrie community.
"Wal-Mart has always played a vital role in the success of the Bikes or Bust Drive," said Kelly.
So, Clear Channel personnel decided that spreading the area solicited would help meet the drive's goal of raising more than 600 bicycles for more than 700 families whose children might not have a good Christmas without the drive.
Coming down from the suspended camper only to eat meals during the day, Kelly, Patat and Kelly's Jack Russell terrier named Rebel broadcasted from the camper in the Albany Wal-Mart's parking lot. The two spent the week calling local businesses and speaking to radio listeners asking for participation.
According to Patat, who participated in the Toys for Tots Program for the fifth consecutive year, the goal was to beat last year's 500-bicycle feat.
"It is important for children to be able to have a good Christmas," said Patat. A brand new bicycle for Christmas will help make a super holiday for many children. Patat remembered that he always had a good Christmas and wants to help as many children as possible to have the same experience.
"It make me feel good to see the children get stuff for Christmas and watch their faces light up," said Patat.
Although these good Samaritans put forth a lot of effort, the program's success could not be achieved without the generosity of the community. The participation by local businesses and residents has been tremendous, said Patat.
"We couldn't do it without them," said Patat.
Kelly agreed with his leatherneck colleague, saying that it's important to him that all children are able to look back on their childhood and remember good Christmases.
"If it takes me away from my family for more than 100 hours to make sure every child will have a bike this Christmas, it is well worth it," said Kelly, who volunteered to be suspended 100 feet above the ground for the second year in a row. "Our ultimate goal is to make sure every child will have a [visit from] Santa Claus this year."
In all, the drive collected 707 bicycles that will help make Christmas special for children in the area.
Albany can look forward to the Marine reservists and Clear Channel Broadcasting being back next year, striving to beat the success they had this year.
"We blew our initial goal out of the water," said Staff Sgt. Marc Robicheaux, who also helped organize the drive. Along with the Bikes or Bust drive, the Marine Corps Reserve had also constructed a 22 ft. lone train to provide a symbol of the Toys for Tots Drive. The train was constructed by Toys for Tots volunteers and ended up costing $3,000, which was donated by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and Savannah Technologies. The train, which was on display at Wal-Mart, will be at Chehaw Park tonight as part of a lights display. For more information, contact the local I&I Staff at 639-5475.