Marine Corps veteran Harry Dampf says he will wake up Christmas morning with a good feeling in his heart and a smile on his face thinking about 115 kids who will find bicycles under their Christmas trees.
Dampf, with the help of Leo Connelly Jr., a decorated Vietnam War Army veteran, and members of Marine Corps League Detachment 494 here and Detachment 958 in Newton Falls, raised $15,500 for the local Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.
The bicycles and other toys collected through the Toys for Tots drive in Mahoning and Trumbull counties are sorted and delivered by the 4th Support Landing unit to the organizations with whom individuals registered to receive presents: the Salvation Army in Youngstown and Warren, the Niles Community Service Center and Fish Samaritan House.
Dampf said he and Connelly, who was inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for Valor, “struck a great deal” with the Kmart Super Center on state Route 46 (2100 Niles- Cortland Road, Howland), through store manager, Jake Aron, and spent $5,500 of what they raised to purchase 115 bikes to be distributed through the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.
“I am tremendously pleased. ... The people of the Mahoning Valley are good and generous people who will give to a good cause,” said Dampf.
He and others involved in the effort gathered Tuesday at the Super Kmart to accept a $5,000 check from the Cafaro Corp. for Toys for Tots. Kmart also kicked in $500 for the bicycle project.
Dampf said 40 12-inch bikes, 20 each for girls and boys, and 75 16-inch bikes, 37 for boys and 38 for girls, were purchased for about $48 each.
Dampf said the local Marine Corps League also is concentrating on the 13-to-17 age group, but ultimately the Toys for Tots program decides where the money is most needed.
“We are the elves, and they are Santa Claus,” Dampf said of the 4th Landing Support Equipment Company based at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Zeifang and Sgt. Timothy Taylor are coordinators for the local program.
Toys for Tots collects new, unwrapped toys in October, November and December and distributes them as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community.
Toys may be donated at white boxes at numerous locations in Mahoning and Trumbull counties posted on Toys for Tots.org. For local information and to donate money locally, go to Toys for Tots.org, search for Ohio, select Trumbull County, and click donate at the top of the page.
On Tuesday, as Dampf was sitting in Kmart being interviewed, a woman came by and handed him $2.
“People are amazing,” he said.