FORT LEE, Va. — Hundreds of service members from all branches of the military are shopping for their children’s holiday toys free of charge.
Fort Lee hosted a VIP Open House on Friday for about 25 junior ranking service members at the Holiday Helpers toy store located on the Army post.
Top military and civilian leaders carried large bags for the soldiers as they picked out toys, books, stuffed animals, board games, and more.
Fort Lee’s Commanding General Maj. Gen. Mark Simmerly shopped with Cpl. Amy Maulo who had a baby last year.
“Somebody crocheted blankets for the kids which are labor intensive and I’m like wow that’s awesome,” Maulo said.
This is the 21st year for Holiday Helpers and the open house’s 12th year.
The efforts are run entirely by volunteers and everything is donated by the community.
This year, there are 18 families shopping for five or six children each.
They’re even taking care of several military families who recently lost belongings in house fires.
“Here’s what I feel in this room and I’m going back to the word I used earlier: magic,” Maj. Gen. Simerly said. “This is a magical season and what makes it magical here today is the tremendous outpouring of love from our community and the magic of our children.”
Pre-school children from Fort Lee’s daycare center sang Christmas carols and received a stuffed animal.
Service members in addition to Reservists, National Guard and Wounded Warriors in Richmond, and Families at the Fisher House are also eligible to shop at the toy store.
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