For some, it is never too early to think about Christmas. One of those people is Junior Mendez, a member of the Marine Corps Reserve and student at McPherson College. 

The senior organized a Toys for Tots drive on campus last year — and he is launching another this year, one he hopes will be bigger and will see its first organized event this month. 

“I thought there was a good response to the toy drive last year even though it was on a small scale and just for our campus,” Mendez said. “I wanted to step it up a little this year and do something that involved the college and the community.”

The Bulldog Benefit Blitz, a 5K and one-mile fun run, is set for Sept. 28 and will support McPherson College’s Toys For Tots toy drive.

Entry for the event is a new toy or a cash donation to the toy drive. The 5K will begin at 8 a.m. and the fun run will begin at 8:30 a.m. from McPherson College Stadium. Pre-registration is available online now through the McPherson College Student Life Facebook page or by calling the Student Affairs office at 620-242-0508. Registration will also take place prior to the event beginning at 7:30 a.m.

All toys must be new, unwrapped and in their original packaging. 

“The toys will be taken down to the Marine recruiting station in Hutchinson and the Marines there will take care of the distribution process,” Mendez said. “This time around, the toys will benefits kids from the Kansas area.”

The first 200 participants in the 5K race will receive a t-shirt, and Mendez is expecting some of the Marines from his unit in Oklahoma will run the 5K in full gear.

“We hope to get a good turnout for the run and collect a lots of toys,” Mendez said. “I would like to fill a truck bed with toys this year.”

Mendez, who is from Wichita and a graduate of Campus High School, is a senior in the Automotive Restoration program and a member of the Marine Corps Reserve serving with a unit in Oklahoma City. Each year, his unit’s master sergeant asks for volunteers to collect toys for the drive and while many of his peers take up posts at places like Walmart around Oklahoma City, Mendez said he wanted to be involved while attending school in Kansas.

Last year,  Mendez headed up the Toys for Tots toy drive just before Christmas. “We are always pushed to be our best and our unit is asked to volunteer to help with the toy drive,” he said. “I was looking for a way that I could get my community here to help out.”

Working with the campus service organization, Gamma Beta Phi, Mendez decided to set up a collection box in the Hoffman Student Union. He is asked all members of the campus community to donate toys and fill the box. 

Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve that distributes toys to less fortunate children at Christmas. The program started in 1947 and to date has distributed 548 million toys.