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A Wine Country Marines Christmas

Updated: Dec 25, 2021

Being a Wine Country Marine means many things, and it means getting to do many great things. One of our favorites is our "Adopt a Military Kid for Christmas Program". Like everyone else we've experienced the stress of Covid-19 on events and causes, and have made modifications. But we refuse to be defeated.

For the past 10+ years, the Wine Country Marines have adopted the kids of various military units in Northern California and we've also hosted a Santa and toy giveaway for our military kids and for the children of our fallen warriors. Typically we obtain the names, gender and ages of our military kids and we work with our partners to obtain quality gifts for them and have them wrapped and delivered to the units for distribution at their Christmas gatherings.

With COVID-19 we had to forego on that model last year and instead identified only hardship cases, and our Santa went door to door making deliveries of gifts to those kids.

This year. however, we returned back to our previous program of providing Santa at the Moffett Field Clubhouse and inviting children from all branches of service.

We had a record amount of toys provided, with the bulk coming from the efforts of Marines with 23d Marine Regiment and 2 full trucks of toys from Elks USA, and also from various individual donors and toy drives hosted by senior military officers to assist their junior enlisted servicemembers. We also had bikes to give out, most of which were given directly to military service members so that they could gift it directly to their kids. But some were given out at this event as well. The majority of the bikes came from TWFK (Turning Wheels for Kids). Special thanks to Sue Runsvold and her team of dedicated patriots at TWFK.

If we could give a Marine of the Year award, or a VIP commendation - it would go to SSgt Eric Castillo who for the last few months has dedicated himself and inspired his junior Marines to work countless hours in rain, wind and chilly weather to collect and deliver toys not just to our organization, but to a great many other groups throughout the area. SSgt Castillo epitomizes what it means to be a Marine.

On Sunday, December 19th we all came together at the Moffett Clubhouse. Santa was in his comfy red chair, the elves were organizing toys, hot chocolate and cookies were in plentiful supply and the kids were lining up at the door and around the corner.

In all, it was estimated that more than 500 military families and over 1,000 children received an average of 3 quality toys each. Smiles were everywhere, and the sound of laughter and excitement filled the room.

Thanks to the hard work and generosity of so many Marines, Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and volunteers, we had a record surplus of toys which are the result of a very generous community that we are blessed to live and work in. In years past, we would bring our surplus to the San Mateo County Jail in Redwood City, where law enforcement officers would roll through and collect toys on their way to calls in the community. Sadly the week of Christmas and New Years are the busiest times for domestic violence and crimes against children. This a national trend that we see every year. So these toys in the hands of law enforcement officers are a critical tool for them to better serve the community.

Much of the domestic violence issues over the holidays stem from financial stress of not being able to provide gifts to the children. So, we've mitigated that risk by supplying these toys to the community through the law enforcement officers. Additionally, when a call does occur, the officers can separate the children from the adults and have toys for the children to lighten their burden while other officers work with the parents or guardians.

This year our surplus was so great, that we had to move the location for the law enforcement aspect of this program to a larger location than the county jail. With the assistance of the East Palo Alto Police Department, specifically Chief of Police Jeff Liu, and our Santa through the years - Lt Leo Capovilla, San Mateo County Sheriff's Office (retired), we were able to secure the use of the Menlo Fire District's National Emergency Equipment Warehouse.

We staged all of our surplus toys in this warehouse where dedicated volunteers unboxed and sorted them all. We then reached out to law enforcement agencies from Yuba City to Watsonville, inviting them all to come and collect toys to bring to the vulnerable and at risk kids in their respective communities. From morning till evening, on Wednesday, Dec 22nd, we had agencies from across the region coming and collecting toys. They were greeted by Major Shannon Potts of the 23rd Marine Regiment in full dress uniform. Major Potts was accompanied by another 5 Marines also in full dress.

All through the day, Marines and law enforcement officers loaded patrol vehicles with toys heading out where they were needed most. There were many great moments of joy and bonding, but leave it to a Pacific Islander Police Officer named Titus with the East Palo Alto Police Department to break out a ukulele and perform Christmas carols to US Marine Major Shannon Potts as shown in the video below.

Even after we've supplied all of these agencies, we still had more to give. Wine Country Marines Board Member and Superior Court Justice Pete Manoukian made multiple trips delivering toys to the family courts, youth programs, victims advocate offices and more. Wine Country Marines Board Member SgtMaj Larry Liechty loaded a truck and delivered to Fairfield Police and Travis AFB. Wine Country Marines Board Member Brian McCullough delivered toys to Tiburon, San Rafael and Marin.

Captain Christina Corpus of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office loaded multiple patrol cars, trucks and vans to distribute amongst the 5 cities and very large county that they are in charge of policing. One of Captain Corpus' deputies in the video below, loading a bicycle from Wine Country Marines to deliver to a child in need.

In anticipation of another disastrous fire season Wine Country Marines has put into storage a portion of the surplus to distribute to children that lose their homes during the fire season.

If you would like to participate in the annual Christmas program, contact Wine Country Marines and volunteer, donate, or spread the word.

Photo Galleries below:

Gallery of Military Santa Event at Moffett Field

Gallery of Law Enforcement Distribution Event

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