Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Justin L. Chase, a metal worker with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and Sally L. McCoy, a Children Giving Gifts volunteer from Orange County, Calif., show Caleb, Naomi and Lucas Mata gifts items at Children Giving Gifts in San Mateo, Nov. 20. Children Giving Gifts, a non-profit organization, came to Camp Pendleton and allowed children to select gifts for their parents.

Photo by Lance Cpl Benjamin Crilly

Marine children give through community program

20 Nov 2010 | Lance Cpl. Benjamin Crilly 1st Marine Division

Some Marine families will inevitably celebrate this holiday season separated from a spouse, parent or loved one deployed overseas, but there are still ways the community and Marine Corps volunteers can help bring them together.

Children Giving Gifts, a non-profit organization, enabled children of Marines and sailors to select gifts for their parents in San Mateo, Nov. 20, as just one way the community helps to bring Marine families together this holiday season.

The idea to host the organization came from Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mill’s wife, Patricia, to give families enough time to mail gifts to deployed parents, said Bill Durdin, the 1st Marine Division family readiness officer.

Durdin invited all families aboard Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms to increase participation in the event.

The children participating were escorted by Marine volunteers through tables filled with gifts and allowed to pick out two gifts for their parents that would later be wrapped by volunteers.

The gifts distributed met Marine Corps gift policy and were purchased wholesale from monetary donations to the organization, said Janeen Reiser, the founder and director of Children Giving Gifts.

“It’s great working with the kids and helping them pick out gifts for their parents,” said Lance Cpl. Justin L. Chase, a metal worker with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, from Morristown, Tenn. “The kids are having fun and able to learn a sense of giving through this event.”

The event not only benefited the military families, but also was a special moment for the organization.

“This is the largest event we’ve had the opportunity to participate in and was a very rare and emotional opportunity for the organization,” said Sally M. McCoy, a volunteer with Children Giving Gifts from Orange County, Calif.

“I love being able to serve the military in this way,” said Reiser, who resides with her husband, Fred, in Orange County, Calif. “When we learned that we would be able to come to Camp Pendleton and work with the kids here, it was the perfect marriage.”

The expectation was for a thousand children to participate in this event.

“Anything we can do for the families and children, especially of deployed Marines and sailors, is a good thing,” said Durdin. “If you think about the fact that the civilian community has such zeal to support their Marines, sailors and families, that’s just a winning combination.”

Durdin said the participation of families and volunteers will determine the success of the program aboard Camp Pendleton and if it will occur in the years to follow.

“Today is all about giving and showing the children that someone did this for them,” said Joseph G. Taylor, the family readiness officer for Marine Air Support Squadron 3, from Lunenburg, Mass. “It also is just a great way to bring families together and show community support.”

Reiser said the chief goal of Children Giving Gifts at Camp Pendleton was for the children to experience the incredible joy that can come from giving gifts to another person this holiday season.

Donations to Children Giving Gifts and more information about their organization can be found at

1st Marine Division