Fort Johnson gets into holiday spirit with toy drive

By Porsha AuzenneDecember 20, 2023

Fort Johnson gets into holiday spirit with toy drive
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Soldiers in the holiday spirit as they participate in the toy drive ruck march Nov. 30. (Photo Credit: Porsha Auzenne) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Johnson gets into holiday spirit with toy drive
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Egla Hays-Sepeda, military spouse, browses through a variety of toys at the Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers Toy Drive pick up Dec. 8 at the BOSS warehouse. (Photo Credit: Porsha Auzenne) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT JOHNSON, La. — The holidays are the season of giving. That’s why Fort Johnson’s Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program hosts their annual toy drive ruck march and toy pickup. These efforts ensure Fort Johnson Families have an extra special holiday season.

More than a thousand Soldiers came to Anvil Field Nov. 30 dressed in their holiday finest. From ugly Christmas sweaters to Grinch and Santa costumes and even rucksacks lit with Christmas lights, the Fort Johnson community came together in an effort to bring cheer to military Families across the installation.

Once the march was complete, participants dropped off hundreds of toys at the BOSS warehouse, where Families were able to pick up presents for their little ones free of charge.

“The most important aspect of the toy drive is bringing the community together,” Whitney Cockerham, BOSS program administrator, said. “It helps bring holiday cheer to those who need it the most. Seeing the Soldiers work so hard to collect toys to donate always brings so much happiness to my heart.”

Spc. Kevin West, Fort Johnson BOSS president, said the toy drive is also important because it helps the single parent population know that BOSS sees them as a priority. Participation between leaders, Soldiers and the community in the ruck march was listed as another reason by West as to why the toy drive is important.

“Participation in the ruck helps build trust outside the uniform, which translates to better cohesion when we train and deploy,” West said. “It’s also about giving back to the community that supports us each and every year. BOSS couldn’t happen without all the awesome people on our installation. Giving back to military Families pays dividends into taking care of our people and earning trust for BOSS within units as a community of selfless leaders.”

When asked what the toy drive meant to West, he recalled his childhood as a major factor.

“The toy drive is important to me because I remember, growing up, how stressful the holidays can be on everyone emotionally and financially,” West said. “Seeing the happy smiles of relieved Families who can give their children a holiday they won’t forget is paramount to why I do what I do as BOSS president.”

Egla Hays-Sepeda, a military spouse present at the Dec. 8 toy drive pickup, expressed what Fort Johnson holding the event meant to her.

“I think the toy drive is important,” Hays-Sepeda said. “It really lights up Christmas for kids and their parents who have financial troubles around this time of year. This is especially true for parents with two or more children.”

Toy donations were handed out Dec. 6-8 at the BOSS warehouse.