Real-life Grinch couldn't stop Christmas for Boston's needy children

Real-life Grinch foiled: Boston residents and others responded to the theft of $15,000 in toys from the Marines' Toy for Tots program with record contributions.

Josh Biggs / Arizona Daily Sun / AP
With transportation help from the U.S. Marine Corps, Santa (and Toys for Tots) delivered toys and food to a remote tribe in Supai, Ariz., on Dec. 15. After a real-life Grinch stole more than 1,000 toys from a Boston Toys for Tots storage facility, 'one person after another carried in bag after bag of gifts for needy children' until the stolen gifts had been replaced many times over.

Seuss's Grinch couldn't stop Christmas from coming, and Boston's real-life Grinch couldn't either.

After Saturday morning's theft of $15,000 worth of toys, stolen from the United States' Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program, it looked like Boston's neediest children might not receive a gift this holiday season.

"This is a despicable crime ... against the hundreds of children in need who would have received these gifts and who now will not," said Colonel Marian J. McGovern, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, in a statement released the day after the theft. They extended the gift-giving deadline from Friday evening to Tuesday evening, in hopes of replacing the stolen toys.

It worked.

The largest single contribution came from Toys'R'Us, which brought the Marines an 18-wheeler laden with $15,000 worth of toys on the morning of Dec. 22.

RELATED: Grinch steals children's gifts, but Boston's Christmas spirit shines

Smaller contributions poured in as soon as word of the theft spread. On Tuesday, the police were asked to pick up 40 toys that Westborough Elementary School students had collected to help their less fortunate peers, reported the Massachusetts State Police. Staffers at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection filled two boxes of toys.

How many toys have come in, in total? “It’s been so fast and fierce that we don’t have the accurate count yet," says spokesman Sargent Matthew Murray. "It’s in the many thousands – I’m sure it’s been over 10,000." The financial donations, at last count, were almost $115,000 – more than seven times the value of the stolen toys.

What effect can a new toy from the Marines have? From

Marine Gunnery Sergeant (retired) Tim Shepard was seven years old when a Marine in a dress blue uniform came to his house one Christmas with toys. It had been a hard year for the family, and Shepard's mother later told him that if it hadn't been for the Marines and their Toys for Tots program, Tim would not have received any presents that Christmas. "That really impressed me," says Shepard. "Seeing a Marine in uniform and getting those toys from him stuck with me and when I was old enough, I joined the Marine Corps." That event left such an impression on him that he eventually ended up running the Toys for Tots program in Atlanta. In the year before Shepard's involvement, the Atlanta program collected only 10,000 toys and was operating far below its potential. By the time Gunny Shepard turned the program over to his replacement in 1992, the program distributed over 330,000 toys.

Nationwide, the Toys for Tots program has given over 100 million presents to children in poverty during its more than fifty years.

"The lobby of State Police General Headquarters was filled with donated toys by Monday night, cleared out the next morning by volunteers bringing the toys to the distribution warehouse, and then re-filled within a matter of hours as one person after another carried in bag after bag of gifts for needy children," announced the Massachusetts State Police in a statement. "We are extremely grateful for the many, many people who opened their hearts to this program to recoup – and then to far exceed – what was lost."

IN PICTURES: Holiday Helpers

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