2,500 Toys Collected In Del Mar’s First Toys For Tots Fundraiser

“Toys for Tots,” an idea to help secure Christmas toys for underprivileged kids that was begun 70 years ago by a Marine reservist, has found new local life at Del Mar racetrack led by hometown Marines aided by San Diego bikers headed by the El Cajon Harley Owners Group (HOG), which is sponsored by El Cajon Harley-Davidson.

Previously, the biggest “Toys for Tots” event in the San Diego area annually was run by the San Diego Chargers. But with the team’s departure from the city earlier this year, it appeared that “Tots” would be left wanting. However, Del Mar stepped in and took on the role of host for the special event, which got off to a running start this past Sunday with more than 2,500 toys collected and a check for $8,600 thrown into the pot as well.

“We’re delighted with our first attempt at this,” said Del Mar’s customer service supervisor Sheryl Kerstiens, who was the point person for the track with the various groups involved. “We worked with wonderful people for this most-worthy cause and the plan is that it will grow with us in the years ahead.”

Kerstiens offered a special salute to two HOG members who were key organizers for the event, Mike Harris and Jay Anderson, both ex-Marines.

Del Mar staff worked with a collection of area Marines and bikers that included the 4th Tank Battalion Marine Corps Reserves, the 4th Medical Battalion Marine Corps Reserves and the Marine Corps Recruiting Station San Diego. Further, the track’s real horses were joined by hundreds of “iron horses” from multiple biker clubs and chapters headed by HOG, all of whom rode in for a day at the races and conducted a fund-raising raffle and silent auction that proved highly successful in raising additional monies. Del Mar’s horsemen, jockeys, staff personnel and fans also added to the mix with toys and donations, culminating in the totals that organizers called “exceptional,” with more funds likely to be added.

Providing a special touch to the afternoon was an appearance by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, which earned a rousing cheer from the Del Mar crowd with a stirring rendition of “God Bless America.”

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