Challenges facing Toys for Tots charity

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- A charity that helps thousands of children is facing a big challenge.

Just as Gary Smith is careful about each and every toy that comes into the warehouse, he's equally concerned every needy child gets something special for Christmas.

"What we try to do is give a nice toy, something educational like a book or a puzzle, and a stocking stuffer," Smith said.

But this year, the Toys for Tots organization is facing challenges unlike any other. First, how they'll continue the tradition of bringing toys to kids living in arguably the most isolated village in the country, Havasupai.

As Smith explains, "You can't get there from here without the helicopters unless you take a mule or you walk down."

For years, a Marine CH 46 helicopter has delivered toys to the village located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but Smith said, "I was told that the two helicopters that they provided us this year flew immediately to Tucson to Davis-Monthan to the bone yard."

So, next year remains uncertain.

"We're working on it already," Smith said.

Another dilemma, finding a storage facility large enough to accommodate all the toys.

"We would love to have some place in this town where we could keep things and use year-round because we have to have storage for our equipment and leftover toys and things like that," Smith said. 

The Marine Corps "Toys for Tots" in Flagstaff accepts thousands of donations every year. While Smith continues to search for a new facility, he just hopes something comes together so next year Toys For Tots in the high country isn't in jeopardy.

"The National Guard has bent over backwards to try and help us, but their hands are tied, too," Smith said.

To contact Toys for Tots, call 928-266-0006.