By MARIE GILBERT
7:33 PM EST, November 17, 2012
Brian Ream didn’t have a Christmas wish list when he was 8 years old.
Even as a young boy, he knew wishes didn’t always come true.
He wondered, how could they? Not when you were raised by a single parent who worked at a low-paying job and struggled to make ends meet.
Not when you were told that Santa might not have enough presents for every child in the world.
But when Ream woke up on Christmas morning, “I found out that miracles do happen,” the Frederick, Md., man said. “My sister unwrapped a doll and I was given a radio-controlled car.”
The Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program had made his family’s holiday brighter that year. But it did much more. It left a lasting impression.
“Even as a child, it was something I never forgot,” Ream said.
That’s why today, as an adult, he gives back to the program that gave to him.
“Every year,” he said, “I buy several toys and donate them to Toys for Tots. I’ve been there.”
Ream, 40, shared his personal story Saturday evening while making this year’s toy donation at the Hagerstown Ice and Sports Complex.
It was the second annual Toys for Tots Hockey Games and the event had all the right ingredients - a worthy cause, hockey and a salute to area service men and women.
The charity event was the idea of Howard Overacker, HMC/USMS Ret., who not only is a member of the Antietam Marine Corps League, but also coaches junior varsity hockey at the local complex.
“I thought this would be a great way to collect toys and, at the same time, have kids learn the importance of giving back to the community,” he said. “I’ve been playing hockey since I was four, so this seemed like a natural fit.”
Overacker said Saturday night was the first of six Toys for Tots charity hockey games that will be held in November and December.
“Teams were notified weeks ahead of time that we were holding this event,” he explained. “Local teams, as well as opposing teams, have been encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy prior to each game.”
Overacker said tallies will be kept on how many toys each hockey team donates and on Dec. 17, representatives from each team will be invited on ice to have their photos taken.
The charity games also will feature raffles, he noted, including hockey equipment, with all proceeds going to Toys for Tots.
Last year, more than 600 toys were donated during the hockey games.
Prior to Saturday night’s game between the Hagerstown Bulldogs and Navy, three boxes had been filled with donations.
“I think we’re well on our way to surpassing last year’s total,” Overacker said.
The evening also included an on-ice salute to the military featuring the Marine Corps League Color Guard.
According to Jim Mills, chairman of the local Toys for Tots, and Jeff Mangum, co-chairman, last year’s Washington County drive resulted in 17,000 toys that were distributed to about 3,000 local children.
“There always is a need,” Mills said. “And you never know who it might be. It could be your neighbors.”
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