Harrell receives Commander’s Award

Published 5:16 pm Thursday, December 4, 2008

A student at John Johnson Elementary School had a surprise visitor come to her classroom on Thursday, Dec. 4.

Piper Harrell was visited by Gunny Sgt. French, Toys for Tots coordinator for the Southwest Georgia region, who presented her with the United States Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Commander’s Award.

Harrell was given the award for generously donating the birthday gifts she received at her birthday party to Toys for Tots in 2007. She did the same this year when she turned seven.

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“Every year we recognize one individual to receive the Commander’s Award that recognizes one outstanding volunteer for that season,” Sgt. French said. “Piper was chosen because a 6-year-old dedicating the gifts from her birthday party to Toys for Tots is probably the best example of what the program is all about.”

On Thursday, Piper’s mother, Desiree Harrell, Col. Gary Breedlove, Bainbridge High School Junior ROTC commander, Piper’s teachers and members of the media joined Sgt. French to surprise Piper and her fellow classmates by presenting her with the award.

It reads, “The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve is proud to recognize Piper Harrell for outstanding achievement in support of the 2007 Toys for Tots Program. These generous contributions have enabled us to help fulfill the Christmas dreams of our nation’s neediest children.”

Following the presentation Piper was asked why she decided to make the generous donations.

“I just wanted to do Toys for Tots because I already have a lot of toys, and it feels so good to share. I’d like to thank my mom for letting me do it,” Harrell said.

Toys for Tots is a program that was started by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1948 with Marine Corps Reserve units across the nation collecting and distributing toys for needy children at Christmas time.

In 2000, the Junior ROTC Program at Bainbridge High School learned that the Marine Corps were allowing other organizations to collect toys on their behalf and became involved, collecting and storing the gifts as they come in. Col. Breedlove explained that since that time, Toys for Tots has become an entire community project with schools, businesses and organizations lending their support to make the program a success.

Sgt. French said he is very impressed with Bainbridge’s involvement in Toys for Tots and the use of schools and the JROTC could be used as a model for other counties.

Last year Toys for Tots in Bainbridge exceeding their goal of 1,200 toys collecting more than 1,500 toys. The toys were then given to the Salvation Army and Bainbridge Housing Authority where they were distributed to those in need. Locally, the toys were given to 510 Bainbridge children.

Col. Breedlove said, with the Dec. 15th deadline for toys to be given in, they are in need of more toys to again reach their goal of the 1,200 toy mark this year. Several upcoming benefits will be held to help gather toys for the program.

Beef O’Brady’s will hold a Toys for Tots sponsorship night on December 15, 2008 from 4 p.m. until closing. Anyone who brings in a new unwrapped toy will receive 10 percent off their meal.

The Circle K Club at Bainbridge College will host “Rally ‘Round the Christmas Tree,” to benefit Toys for Tots, on Friday, Dec. 12 from 6-8 p.m. Carol singing will help make the holiday bright; people who come are asked to bring one or more new unwrapped toys.

Local broadcaster WMGR will sponsor a Christmas food drive during the Bainbridge Christmas Parade on Dec. 11. Parade-goers are asked to bring two non-perishable food items and either hand them to members of Boy Scout Troop 503 or place them on the 93MGR/TV22 parade float as it passes. The food items will be donated to the Salvation Army Food Bank in Bainbridge to help feed local needy persons during the holidays.

You can also donate money to the Salvation Army directly by calling 243-7250 or visiting its Web site, www.salvationarmyusa.org.