Swim league hosts Toys For Tots event at home meet

Stephon Owens, a 2013 graduate of Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville, participated in the Lasers’ charity Toys For Tots event on Thursday. (Photo: Steve Argo)

Stephon Owens, a 2013 graduate of Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville, participated in the Lasers’ charity Toys For Tots event on Thursday. (Photo: Steve Argo)

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SUWANEE — Christmas in the middle of June?

Well, it’s certainly possible if you’re the Lansmoore Lasers of the Gwinnett County Swim League supporting a great cause.

Thursday night at Lansmoore’s home swim meet with the Wild Timber Team Extreme, everyone came together to support the Lasers’ charity Toys For Tots.

Given how much time swimmers and their families spend during the season, Coach Charlene Wilson was looking for a way the team could get together in the off-season.

That idea became reality to support the Toys For Tots campaign, which originally got started by having swimmers and their family members bring toys along with needed supplies to the Toys For Tots warehouse last December.

It proved to be a successful venture and continued Thursday night as the Lansmoore pool turned into a decorated Christmas setting with lights, decorations and music with even some folks dressed in holiday attire.

The scene was complete due to the fact that the Lansmoore swimmers were clad in red swim gear while Wild Timber was sporting green.

“We started with this idea last December as a way to get the kids together during the off-season when we don’t get to see everybody,” Wilson, who is in her eighth season at Lansmoore, said. “So we volunteered at a Toys For Tots warehouse and we were able to get a bunch of families together. Then Adam Forrand took the idea and ran with it to do a theme at one of our dual meets. So we adopted Toys For Tots as our charity.”

The Toys For Tots Program was established through the United States Marine Corps Reserve and is set up to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year and distribute them as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community.

Wilson and the folks at Lansmoore even brought in Lance Corporal Stephon Owens of the U. S. Marine Corps, who is currently stationed at Dobbins Air Force Reserve Base in Marietta.

Owens, a 2013 graduate of Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville, understands the importance of this program.

“For the Marine Corps to be involved in a charity organization such as Toys For Tots sets a really good example,” Owens said, whose parents both served 20-plus years in the military. “It’s what we stand for, because we’re here for the people. That’s the entire reason we serve. We’re the world’s best fighting force, so of course we’re going to show love and joy to everyone.

“And who doesn’t like Christmas? We’ve got to get into the Christmas spirit early.”

There is also the Marine Toys For Tots Foundation, a not-for-profit charity that is the authorized fund-raising, funding and support organization for Toys For Tots Program.

Over 700 communities covering all 50 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have conducted local campaigns as part of the overall program.

All told, the Marine Toys For Tots Program has distributed over 469 million toys to 216 million less fortunate children.

“We do various fund-raisers and we do funerals for all military veterans and things like flag raisings,” said Owens. “We also show up at events like Braves games to be community-involved. We basically do anything and everything that can be done in the community.

“And once I finally get to deliver the toys to the children, it means I finally got a little bit of rank on my shoulder.”