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Event raises toys for Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign

Gunnery Sergeant Helmsteder with several of the children who took part in last year’s Teens for Marines dance.

Gunnery Sergeant Helmsteder with several of the children who took part in last year’s Teens for Marines dance.

— Emily Estes was challenged by her mother to change the world, even if it’s for just one person. Now she has the U.S. Marine Corps and North Country Honor Flight helping her do it.

The challenge came shortly after Hurricane Sandy, when many people’s attention was turned toward the people whose lives were ravaged by the storm, and what people could do to help. They tossed around ideas like collecting coats at Christmas time, or food for the food shelf, but Emily had a better idea: have a party.

Emily, who is 12 and in the seventh grade at Beekmantown Central School, thought that for her birthday party, instead of bringing gifts for her, people could bring gifts that could be given to Toys for Tots. The idea grew, and so did the guest list.

“It started out with just the people in our house but the numbers just got bigger and bigger, and more people wanted to get involved and it became like (the movie) Jaws: ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat,’ so we needed a bigger venue,” said Carol Estes.

Jane Sample, co-owner of the Rainbow Wedding and Banquet Hall in Altona offered their Blue Room, and Jane’s son Brandon volunteered to DJ. With help from the local Marine Corps recruiter, Gunnery Sergeant Helmsteder, the first ever “Teens for Marines” dance was held.

“Last year we had a good amount of kids. We had a car full of toys. We filled the trunk, the back seat, the front seat. You almost couldn’t sit in the car,” said Emily.

This year they’re hoping for a much bigger event, with many more toys for needy children.

“Every extra toy, that’s an extra happy kid,” said Carol. “We just want the kids to come and have a good time.”

Emily started a Facebook page, Teens for Marines Toys for Tots, which caught the attention of North Country Honor Flight director Danny Kaefitz. He contacted the Esteses through Facebook and offered his group’s considerable help.

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