BERNARDSVILLE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Christmas is just three weeks away and there is a local toy drive that needs help getting more presents to children in need.
Tonianne Vanderveer and her niece started collecting toys last year for the Marine Toys For Tots. It’s a way to honor her husband, Jamie, who died last year of cancer at just 50 years old. He was a proud Marine who enlisted right after high school and had quietly been taking part in Toys For Tots for decades.READ MORE: COVID 1 Year: 'Long Haulers' Still On Long Road To Recovery, 'A Complete Lifestyle Change'
“He donated these toys for 20-plus years and I really didn’t know anything about it. He just did it,” Tonianne told CBS2’s Cindy Hsu on Friday.
Shortly before Jamie died, he told Tonianne she would need to get the toys. So the family started a toy drive and a nonprofit called Operation Jamie’s Angels.
“We had really over $10,000 worth of toys donated that time, which was amazing,” niece Alexandra Daras said.
They collected more than 1,000 toys that filled a huge box truck and then passed them on to the Marines, but this year very few toys have been donated.
“This year, with COVID and the situation in our country, it has just been really, really slow. We have a little bit of toys coming in. Not nearly enough,” Daras said.READ MORE: Wife Of Top Cuomo Aide Shows Support On Social Media For Governor's Latest Sexual Harassment Accuser
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There are several ways to help. You can drop off an unwrapped gift at Alexandra’s store in Bernardsville called the Pretty Pink Rooster, or visit the group’s Amazon wish list. The family said more children than ever will need cheering up.
“It may sound silly, but giving them one little toy might bring a little joy to their heart in this really difficult time,” Tonianne said.
She said she knows Jamie is cheering her on.
“I think he’s thrilled and I think he’s saying, ‘Go Mrs. V,’ because that’s what he use to say to me, ‘Go Mrs. V,'” Tonianne said.
As the family continues Jamie’s legacy of strength and generosity.MORE NEWS: COVID Vaccine: Competitors Johnson & Johnson And Merck & Co. Teaming Up To Increase Supply
Operation Jamie’s Angels will be collecting toys through Dec. 9.