BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting families hard financially across America and right here in Maryland. That’s why this year’s Toys for Tots efforts are more important than ever.

It’s a promise to carry out a mission from the United States Marine Corps.

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“The mission is just making sure children feel like children on December 25, on Christmas,” Major Pete Smith, of the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program, said.

For years, Major Smith has directed the Toys for Tots program in central Maryland, but this year due to the pandemic, there are fewer toys coming in and more families messaging for help.

“If you just read the messages themselves your heart will break cuz there are dozens of emails from folks who are like, ‘Hey, I don’t have a job this year,” Major Smith said.

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Major Smith said he knows firsthand what it’s like to wake up Christmas morning without presents under the tree.

“My mom was a single mom, five kids, so we didn’t have a lot of resources,” he said. “That’s probably why I feel so connected to this.”

“Not all heroes wear capes, and so this year we have a lot of heroes that are wearing Toys for Tots sweatshirts,” he added.

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If you would like to drop off a toy, click here for a list of drop off locations in your neighborhood. They’ll be accepting toys until December 19.

Annie Rose Ramos