Nearly 500 children will have a gift for Christmas that might not have been possible without the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program that held its annual distribution event on Saturday in Jamestown.

The 496 children from up to 200 families live within a 50-mile radius of Jamestown, said Sheila Ova, the Jamestown coordinator of the Toys for Tots program. That’s about 50 more kids than in 2017 and nearly 100 more than in 2016, she said.

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For Ova, it’s been important volunteer work that she has coordinated for more than 15 years in the Jamestown area.

“We are just here to help the families so that the kids can have a toy and something fun for Christmas and enjoy the holiday like they should,” Ova said.

Ova’s volunteers loaded up the Anne Carlsen Center gymnasium Saturday with gifts for children from infant to age 17. The gifts were donated or purchased with cash donations. Like clockwork the families were scheduled in 15-minute increments all day long to give parents a bit of privacy in selecting gifts for their children with the help of volunteers.

“We will be helping after the fact for people who can’t make it and deliver toys to to their homes,” Ova said.

Norberto Rivera, a Valley City resident in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, attended in uniform at the distribution event. He said most of the Marines in his unit are from Minnesota and volunteer there, and so it meant something to be present in uniform in Jamestown.

“I think this event is important because it helps to just make sure that kids have something to look forward to on Christmas and they are not left out,” Rivera said. “You can’t really go wrong with helping kids.”

Allen and Sarah Kapp of Jamestown volunteered to help parents handpick toys on Saturday. Allen Kapp called Toys for Tots “an amazing program” to help kids in need have a Christmas.

“It’s also amazing the variety of toys for kids and there is a good selection of them,” Kapp said. “I appreciate the people who have donated to the program.”

The Ryan and Cassie Spitzer family of Kensal stopped by gymnasium in person on Saturday to drop off toys they wanted to donate. Their sons, Carter, 13, Cale, 9, and Crosby, 6, picked out the toys.

“We had dinner at Perkins and were going to drop the toys into their Toys for Tots box,” Cassie Spitzer said. “The volunteers were there taking the boxes away and so we came to the gym.”

The families who are referred or call direct applied by a Nov. 21 deadline. Families who want toys can still contact Ova through Dec. 21 after 5:30 p.m. or leave a message at 952-3603.