For many years at Christmas time, thousands of local children have relied on the jolly old fellow who sometimes wears a red suit. They - and needy moms and dads who didn't have anything left over for toys once they'd put food in the table - could count on him.
Sometimes the familiar song about him and his buddies came to mind: "From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli ..."
No, not Santa Claus -the United States Marines. Some of them resemble him slightly when outfitted in their red dress uniforms.
For many years, both active-duty and retired Marines in our area have used their Toys for Tots program to make needy children happier during the holidays. More than a few of the Marines are war veterans. Some you may have seen at Toys for Tots collection tables were just back from Iraq or Afghanistan or getting ready to go there.
Helping needy children was a priority. They handled the mission as you would expect of Marines.
As I told you a few weeks ago, there will be no Marine Toys for Tots program this year in the Wheeling area. For a variety of reasons, chief among them loss of the Marine Reserve post at Moundsville, it just couldn't happen this year.
The eyes of the old Leatherneck who gave me the news were glistening as he explained. He and his comrades, most in their 60s and 70s, were heartbroken.
I made a promise to him. The good people of the Ohio Valley would mount their own Toys for Tots program, I said. You've done it for so many years, the least we can do is handle it this time around, I added.
But with the Marines not directly involved, the campaign is moving slowly. Officials at some of the charitable organizations that distributed toys for the Marines in the past are worried they won't be able to take care of all the children.
We can't let that happen. It would be bad enough to let down the Marines - who have never let us down.
But much worse would be thinking about children who didn't get at least something nice for Christmas.
Let's get to it. Here's a list of some groups that need help, with addresses and phone numbers:
The House of the Carpenter, 200 S. Front St., Wheeling. 304-233-4640.
North Wheeling Youth Center, 334 N. Main St. (P.O. Box 6051), Wheeling. 304-233-8899.
Salvation Army, 140 16th St., Wheeling. 304-233-4400.
St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 1410 Chapline St., Wheeling. 304-233-0133.
Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley, 1310 Market St., Wheeling. Or, donations can be left at the UPS Store on Washington Avenue, WesBanco Arena, Robinson Automotive Group at The Highlands, Ye Olde Alpha on Carmel Road, of Jazzercize in the Elm Terrace Shopping Center.
Please donate a new toy or, even better, cash to one of these organizations.
In the past I've suggested helping Toys for Tots is as good for the givers as for the children. The thought of a child smiling on Christmas morning because of our donations is irresistible.
But by helping this year, you'll be putting smiles back on the faces of some other pretty special people: Marines.
Do it. Now, please.
Myer can be reached at: Myer@news-register.net.