CARMEL VALLEY — A 26-foot-long U-Haul truck sat in front of Geppetto’s Toys store in Carmel Valley on the morning of Nov. 12, full to the brim. Its bounty? Over $50,000 worth of toys to be donated to Toys for Tots, a program coordinated by the U.S. Marine Corps to collect and distribute new toys for less fortunate children at Christmastime.
The toys were purchased from the local toy store and donated by an anonymous, San Diego-based donor.
According to Sgt. Leticia Williams, a coordinator for the San Diego Toys for Tots program, it’s the largest donation she has seen.
“How amazing that someone has that much generosity to give,” Williams said, calling the donor’s choice to remain anonymous “honorable.”
A “representative” of the anonymous donor showed up at the Del Mar Highlands Geppetto’s toy store — the largest location of the company, which has 1- stores throughout San Diego County — at about 6 a.m. in order to hand-pick an assortment of items from the shelves. The result was a truck-full of toys stacked high in cardboard boxes — items for all ages, encompassing everything from dolls and karaoke stereos to “build-a-drone” sets.
At 9 a.m., the seven Marines at the site packed up the last of the boxes, and spread out the 30-foot-long receipt that listed the innumerable toys purchased on behalf of the charity effort.
“Geez, it’s a lot,” Williams said, as the Marines shut the truck door and prepared to take the toys to their distribution center. From there, the toys are sorted and redistributed to various nonprofits in San Diego and Riverside counties.
Brian Miller, the owner of Geppetto’s Toys, said the company hosts different toy drives every year. Yet he, like Williams, has not seen a donation of this magnitude “ever,” he said.
Miller lauded the donor for “the fact that they wanted to go local and have the dollars stay local.”
“I think it’s a great way to kick off the (holiday) season,” he said. “I feel so thankful. That’s a big part of the holiday … you want to inspire gratitude, and this certainly does it.”
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.