Toys for tots has local, personal touch

by Peter Jakey–

ROGERS CITY mayor Beach Hall (left), along with Toys for Tots organizers Vicki Filipiak and Casey Viegelahn gather by Vicki’s Christmas tree. (Photo courtesy of Casey Viegelahn)

Managing Editor

The spirit of the holiday gift-giving season was evident in Rogers City during an intimate gathering at the South Lake Street home of Vicki Filipiak.

She partnered with Marine Capt. Casey Viegelahn to initiate a Toys For Tots program and invited friends, family and neighbors to Filipiak’s home to collect toys for less fortunate children of the area.

Both Filipiak and Viegelahn were born and raised in Rogers City and want to give something back to the community. They were notified of a needy family in the Posen area and distributed a flyer announcing their event to collect toys for two boys and a girl, but collected many more.

“In the past, I’ve attended Toys For Tots events with most in the Detroit area,” said Filipiak. “I thought it would be kind of cool, now that I own a home in Rogers City, to support my hometown.”

Filipiak is a 1994 Rogers City High School graduate, while Viegelahn graduated in 1998. He had two tours in Iraq, was contracted to train Afghanistan police during a 13-month stint, and was going back to Afghanistan as a business analyst.

“Vicki asked me to help put it together, to get some toys for local residents,” said Viegelahn. “We were talking about the program and the need to do something around here. This is the first time I’ve actually been home for this type of event.”

“We had a great turnout, and people were so kind and so generous with the gifts that they bought,” said Filipiak. “It was really touching.”

Cocktails and appetizers were part of the festive evening.

“You see the boxes with the Toys for Tots sitting outside of stores. It’s a great way to give back, but if you open your home up, it’s a lot more personal to have other people come in.”

He estimated that there were 40 to 50 in attendance, including Rogers City mayor Beach Hall. Approximately 50 toys were collected.

Toys For Tots began as a Los Angeles charitable effort in 1947. Reservist Major William Hendricks was inspired by his wife Diane when she tried to donate a homemade Raggedy Ann doll to a needy child but could find no organization to do so. At her suggestion he gathered a group of local Marine reservists, including Lieutenant Colonel John Hampton, who coordinated and collected some 5,000 toys for local children that year from collection bins placed outside of Warner Brothers movie theaters.

The effort was so successful that in 1948 a nationwide campaign was launched.

Locally, efforts will be made to get the other toys to other less fortunate families in the area.

Filipiak said, “I would love to see this become an annual event. A number of people made comments that, ‘I hope you do this again next year.’ We would love to see this grow and have more people participate and donate.”