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TODAY
updated 10/29/2008 2:40:29 PM ET 2008-10-29T18:40:29

It's time to get ready for the holiday season! The TODAY show is kicking off its 15th Annual Holiday Toy and Gift Drive for needy families all over the United States.

A greater portion of families and children live in poverty in America today than three decades ago. We need your help in making the holidays brighter for some of these deserving children.

This year’s economic downturn has families worrying about paying their bills. With money so tight this year, many parents simply cannot afford to give their children a special present. We want you to help us help these families and put a smile on the faces of millions of children.

We are proud of this effort, and to again this year continue the TODAY show’s long tradition of reaching beyond the looking glass of Studio 1A and into the lives of families in underserved communities all over the United States.

Contact us now!
We hope you join us in celebrating the season and helping children all over the United States for our 15th annual toy drive.  For more information on how you can be a part of it, please contact us at 212-664-7508.

Last holiday season, TODAY viewers, website visitors and corporate contributors teamed up to provide nearly $26 million worth of toys, books, games, clothing, toiletries, electronics, musical instruments, CDs, videos, cosmetics and other suitable gifts to more than five million children via 204 organizations in all 50 states. 

TODAY has distributed $175 million in donations since 1994. The "TODAY Show Toy Drive" became the first independent gift drive in morning show history. The unique program is designed to provide gifts for impoverished children and teenagers up to age 18 nationwide. This year's effort has already begun, with items being shipped early to communities who have dire need to house and clothe millions of children. It's now time to reach out to every viewer. Please help us during these trying times to give a gift to every child on our list. For many of them, we are the ONLY source of gifts for the holidays.

On the air
The Toy Drive is now a Rockefeller Center tradition. Surprise celebrities visit the crowd each morning to gather up their donations. Among those who came to help in past years have been George Clooney, Hillary Swank, Jim Carrey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Bonnie Hunt, Jack Black, Dermot Mulroney, Edie Falco, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Brown, Ashanti, Paula Abdul, Rick Springfield, Sting, LL Cool J, Chris Isaak, Harry Connick, Jr., Martin Sheen, Julie Andrews, Lynn Redgrave, NY Mets manager Willie Randolph, Robin Williams, NY Yankees Alex Rodriguez and Joe Torre, Henry Kissinger, Yogi Berra, Mister Rogers, Joe Perry from Aerosmith, Susan Lucci, Molly Shannon, Donald Trump, Jimmy Smits, Phylicia Rashad, LeAnn Rimes, NASCAR'S Kurt Busch and Jimmy Buffett.

Major donations from corporations will begin to appear on the show beginning November 24. Starting the Monday after Thanksgiving (Dec. 1), we're urging all the visitors to Rockefeller Plaza to join in the fun and bring a gift for a child up to age 18 and donate it live to a surprise guest, on camera every day until December 23rd. So if you're planning a trip to New York, be sure to pack a gift for a child in need.

If you can't make it to Rockefeller Center to donate, be sure to tune in for special announcements on how you can participate in your home town.

Donate online
And here is one way you can contribute to the Today Show Holiday Gift Drive online:

The recipients
All donations, large and small, put some cheer into the holidays for a child who may otherwise not have received any gift at all. The items are often given to families who cannot afford to buy presents, so that the children can open a gift that's given to them by a loved one, not a charity. These items go to 210 organizations in all 50 states reaching millions of kids. Recipients include homeless shelters, children's group homes, schools, foster family services, domestic abuse shelters, Native American missions, military bases, hospitals, preschools, after school programs, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

The "TODAY Show Toy Drive" is a project of the TODAY Show Charitable Foundation, Inc., a 501c3 non-profit organization. All donations are tax deductible to the extent the law allows. In 2008, it was honored with a President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Let's all work together in making this year's toy drive the most successful ever. It comes at a time of great need.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

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