Toys for Tots delivers thousands of gifts and goodies to children who otherwise wouldn't have any presents under the tree on Christmas. The organization's work in Montana today wouldn't be possible without the dedication of one Helena man.
James Heffernan is a Marine Corps veteran who served in the Korean War. More than 40 years ago, he took his passion for service and decided to give back to the kids of Montana. Back in 1978, with just a handful of volunteers, he started Montana’s branch of the organization.
That year they only collected a few toys. Now, the Helena region alone receives 10,000-12,000 gifts each year.
“When you give a toy to a child that's in need, you're telling them that there's somebody out there that is caring and loving. That's the important thing right there,” said Heffernan.
Heffernan was even acknowledged as "Coordinator of the Year" for Toys for Tots in 2003. The annual, national honor is only given to one person in the entire organization.
He retired from that role in 2008, but never fully handed over the reins. Heffernan remains active in the Toys for Tots community.
In fact, Heffernan was hospitalized over the weekend, but cares so much for the organization, he decided to follow through with our scheduled interview in hopes it would help get the word out.