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Marines vs. Criminals: Children win

By Lance Cpl. Brian J. Holloran | | November 30, 2005

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Station Marines participated in a fundraiser for Toys for Tots by going head-to-head with city football champion Yuma High School in a charity football game Nov. 30 at the Yuma High football field located in Yuma, Ariz. The competition was held to assist the Marines in collecting new, unwrapped toys to give to children in need.The game showcased station Marine volunteers against the Criminals varsity starters in an eight-on-eight flag football game. Admission to the game was a donation of one new, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots. Toys for Tots is a non-profit organization that receives donations of new toys to give to children and monetary donations to help organize fund raisers and draw in more toys for children in need.Toys for Tots collects an average of 47.3 million toys each year, valued at $243 million. The charity game brought in eight boxes of toys, each about four feet tall, for Imperial Valley children, said Sgt. Kyle Milette personnel chief for Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401.The game was the idea of Milette, a native of Noble, Okla., and was the biggest toy-raising event held this year by station Marines.“We were all trying to figure out a good way to get donations for Toys for Tots,” said Milette. “Everyone was just kicking around ideas. At my last duty station, we used to play the Army every year to raise the toys, so we just altered the idea for this station. We thought if we played against the city champs, the community would be more willing to attend.”There were an estimated 200 people at the game to cheer on the Marines and the Criminals, said Milette.Both the Marine and Criminals teams were made up of volunteers.“We volunteered to play mainly to help the community and the kids,” said Zack Limos, senior and center for the Yuma High Criminals. “I also volunteered because of the love of the game.”“I think this was a great idea,” said 1st Lt. Ashish Lall, air defense control officer for Marine Air Control Squadron 1. “It’s for a great cause and it’s a great way to get not only the community involved with Toys for Tots but the air station involved with the community.”The Marines wanted to play the Criminals because they thought playing against a local high school would bring more people from the community out for support, said Milette.“The game was great,” said T.J. Gardner, junior and cornerback for the Criminals. “It’s a great way to help the local kids and a good way to bring the Marines and the community closer together. It was also fun for us. We got to size ourselves up against these guys and see where we stand." The game kicked off at 6 p.m. with the coin toss and a presentation of the colors and the playing of the national anthem.The game started slowly in the first half, with each team only scoring one touchdown. After halftime, the Marines came out and scored two unanswered touchdowns, both with unsuccessful extra point attempts. The Criminals came back late in the second half to take a one point lead with 45 seconds left in the game. “The Marines are pretty good and they are definitely well conditioned,” said Gardner.With 4.5 seconds left in the game Maj. Gary Golembiski, VMFT-401 assistant operations officer and native of Jersey City, N. J., threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Lance Cpl. Tony Ellerbe, Marine Corps Property supply clerk and native of Cincinnati, to win the game. “This was the most exciting football game I was ever a part of,” said Lall, a native of Buffalo, N.Y. “The game went down to the very last play.”“This football game was a chance for us to give back to the community,” said Milette. “The Marine Corps is the primary poster child for the Toys for Tots program. We wanted to get the local community involved and show them we are here to make a difference.” For more information on the Toys for Tots organization or to donate online, go to http://www.toysfortots.org.
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