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‘Today’ launches 12 annual holiday gift drive

Learn how we're helping needy children this season, and how you can too.
/ Source: TODAY

This year has been such a difficult one for so many families in the United States. There are those in the news, who have been left homeless by Katrina and Rita. Add to that the military families separated by war. Then there are those you don't see, who every day live in poverty, nearly invisible in the media. Rising food and gas prices are leaving needy families with little for holiday gifts. With so many families in great need this year, "Today" is working hard to put a smile on the faces of millions of children with its 12th annual Holiday Toy Drive. Now underway, the effort continues a long tradition of reaching beyond Studio 1A and into the lives of families in underserved communities all over the United States.

Last holiday season, "Today" viewers, Web site visitors and corporate contributors teamed up to provide a record $32.6 million worth of toys, books, games, clothing, toiletries, electronics, musical instruments, CDs, videos, cosmetics and other suitable gifts to more than 3 million children via 210 organizations in all 50 states.

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.

Twelve years ago, 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 housing victims of the hurricanes. 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.

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 Jim Carrey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Edie Falco, LL Cool J, Chris Isaak, George Clooney, Hillary Swank, 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, NASCAR Champion Kurt Busch and Jimmy Buffet.  

On the air
Major donations from corporations will begin to appear on the show beginning November 21. Starting the Monday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 28), the visitors to Rockefeller Plaza should join in the fun and bring a gift for a child up to age 18 and donate it live, on camera, during the celebrity collection at 8:30 a.m. ET, and every day after that until December 23. So if you're planning a trip to New York, be sure to pack a gift for a child in need.

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.

Contact us now!
We hope you join us in celebrating the season and helping children all over the United States for our 12th annual toy drive. If you are a company interested in making a donation, please contact Sam Sagenkahn by e-mail at: sam.sagenkahn@nbc.com .

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