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Organizer carries on family tradition: Re McClung continues to collect and distribute toys as part of Toys for Tots campaign on Whidbey Island

Re McClung, co-chair of Whidbey Island’s Toys for Tots program, and her grandchildren Nolan, 4, and Gabrielle, 6, visit her Coupeville garage where she stores toys that will be delivered to organizations that handle distribution to families. - Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times
Re McClung, co-chair of Whidbey Island’s Toys for Tots program, and her grandchildren Nolan, 4, and Gabrielle, 6, visit her Coupeville garage where she stores toys that will be delivered to organizations that handle distribution to families.
— image credit: Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

For Re McClung, watching toys pile up in her garage is a joy to see.

In a way, it’s therapy.

McClung said she is pleased to still be involved with the Toys for Tots donations program on Whidbey Island this holiday season.

She knows what the sight of those toys would have meant to her daughter Megan McClung, a former U.S. Marine killed in Iraq in 2006. And she knows what they would have meant to her husband Michael McClung, also a former Marine who died of natural causes in July.

Both had giving hearts and held soft spots for children.

With her husband and daughter now gone, Re McClung decided to carry on the charitable mission her family believes in.

She is co-chair of the island-wide Toys for Tot program run by Maj. Megan McClung Marine Corp League Detachment 1210. She shares that role with Bob Gabelein, Commandant of the local detachment.

Michael McClung held both of those titles until his unexpected death.

McClung and her husband took on the Toys for Tots program as part of the detachment in 2006 in memory of their daughter, who died three weeks before Christmas.

“It made it a cheery season instead of a sad season,” McClung said. “This season is going to be doubly hard without Megan and now Mike. I just thought I should move forward with this.”

Toys for Tots is keeping McClung busy overseeing the collection and distribution of the toys, while Gabelein focuses on the finances and bookkeeping.

McClung, who lives in Coupeville, and Gabelein, from Langley, both take satisfaction in bringing joy to children from families who are in need.

Toys for Tots is a national organization run by the Marine Corps Reserve.

Since Whidbey Island does not have a reserve unit, it is run locally by the island’s only Marine Corps League detachment.

“It’s to help the families who are struggling with economy being so bad,” Gabelein said. “It brings a good smile to the kids when they have something under their tree at Christmas.”

Collection boxes have been set up in stores all over the island for those who’d like to donate a new unwrapped gift.

The Oak Harbor Walmart is holding the inaugural “Fill the Truck” campaign over the next two weekends.

Toys collected end up going to five different agencies for distribution, including Soroptimist International of Oak Harbor’ “Tree of Hope” and Holiday House on South Whidbey.

Toys also come from the Toys for Tots national foundation in Washington, D.C.

“We deliver the toys to them,” McClung said of the agencies. “They give us the number of children they’re serving, their genders and ages so we can match the toys.”

Navy Federal Credit Union also is raising money to purchase bicycles through Walmart for Toys for Tots.

To also help fill children’s wish lists, members of the local Marine Corps League will be at the ferry terminal in Clinton Dec. 7-8 to accept cash donations to purchase toys.

McClung said that every toy and every dollar collected on Whidbey Island stays on the island.

She said the program served 1,863 children last year and they expect more than 2,000 this year.

That’s a lot of toys.

And a lot of smiles.

“People here are very generous,” McClung said.

 

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