Toys for Tots kicks off gift-giving season

Photo by Michael Erb Mid-Ohio Valley Toys for Tots volunteers Angie Burgy, left, and John Burgy, right, along with Assistant Coordinator Lanette Hecker, center, kicked off the holiday gift-giving season Friday with an event at Dunkin Donuts in south Parkersburg. Donation bins have been placed at businesses throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley and surrounding counties.

PARKERSBURG — Toys for Tots is looking to make this Christmas a little brighter for area children in need.

Cliff Hecker, coordinator for the Mid-Ohio Valley Toys for Tots program, said the national program started in 1947 through the Marine Corps Reserves and last year served 4.3 million children. The Mid-Ohio Valley program last year distributed about 30,000 toys, he said.

“We serve Wood, Wirt, Jackson and Pleasants Counties in West Virginia and Washington County in Ohio,” he said. “We do have some people outside of those areas we distribute to as well.”

Hecker said the program is done entirely by volunteers.

“We all work full time and do this in our free time,” he said. “It’s a huge undertaking.”

The annual holiday toy drive began Nov. 1, but kicked off the Christmas season Friday with a morning event at Dunkin Donuts in south Parkersburg and an afternoon event at the southside Walmart. Hecker said marked donation bins have been placed at stores throughout the service area, and a map of donation locations can be accessed at

In addition to the toy drive, the Mid-Ohio Valley Toys for Tots program will offer a free train ride for children from 6-9 p.m. Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 at City Park in Parkersburg.

“We’ll have the Toys for Tots train at City Park and give free rides around the park to see the lights,” Hecker said. “We don’t get to see the kids open their presents Christmas morning, but this gives us a chance to see them enjoy the holiday. You can make donations at the park, but that’s not required. This is just something we like to do to give back and to see the smiles on the kids’ faces.”

Hecker said the program is always looking for volunteers. If interested, email with times and dates of availability, he said.