Big check presentation
Ben Johnson (center), center operations and programs manager at USO Fort Hood, accepts a check from Maria Tolleson, vice president of Women Helping Others, and Jeff Helm, co-chair of the Sun City Hiking Club USO Toy Drive, at a ceremony in Sun City, Texas, Nov. 11. (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

SUN CITY, Texas - The Sun City Hiking Club collected and donated approximately $6,000 worth of toys and a $4,310 check to USO Fort Hood to help Fort Hood families with their holiday needs in a ceremony at the Cowan Creek Golf Course here, Nov. 11.

“There’s a lot of veterans that live down here in Sun City. I’m myself 30 years Air Force. We understand, especially for young Soldiers … how hard it can be for them to get toys at Christmas time,” said Jeff Helm, co-chair of the Sun City Hiking Club USO Toy Drive. “We just wanted to help out and make their holidays a little bit more enjoyable.”

They celebrated veterans and their combined efforts with the Women Helping Others organization to gather toys and donations for USO Fort Hood.

“Several members of our club are veterans and we’re just thrilled to death to have them, they’re wonderful people. Some of the veterans mentioned that it’d be nice to help the USO … and we decided to do that,” Dennis Carroll, president of the Sun City Hiking Club, said. “The hiking club and the Women Helping Others (organization) joined together and we’ve got $10,000 of cash and toys (to donate).”

When asked about why donating these toys was important to him, Carroll became emotional, knowing that many military children will be without, or far away from some of their close family members.

“I feel sorry for them and I know what it’s like. Maybe we can be grandparents to those kids,” he said.

Ben Griffin, center operations and programs manager for USO Fort Hood, attended on behalf of the USO and he was incredibly excited to see the outpouring of support from the residents of Sun City.

Sun City toy drive
Approximately $6,000 worth of toys were collected from the Sun City, Texas, community and donated to USO Fort Hood, Nov. 11. "I'm just in awe of the support we've gotten from this community," Ben Johnson, center operations and programs manager for USO Fort Hood, said. (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

“We are so happy to partner with an organization like the Sun City Hiking Club. It has been my absolute pleasure to work with them and be invited to such an amazing event. They’re going to be presenting us with the toys and a check and several gift cards to be able to provide our active duty service members with a really great Christmas event at the USO,” Griffin said. “One of our big events is our Winter Carnival/Extravaganza and this year is going to be extra special. I’m just in awe of how much support we’ve gotten from this community … and could not be more happy.”

He knows that the donation will have a huge positive impact on the children of the Fort Hood community.

“Christmas is a time of year where people really have joy in their hearts. It’s the time of year where you spend time with family and loved ones. This (donation) is just going to take it up to the next level,” Griffin said.

Carroll said they want to continue doing their toy drive annually.

“We’re going to continue the toy drive… you just can’t imagine what this means to the kids at Fort Hood,” Carroll said, “and we’re so fortunate to have so many good donors in Sun City. You guys have been more than generous.”