Inside the Gates: Toys for Tots makes its way to remote Alaska

Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 7:22 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Santa brought his holiday magic to McGrath earlier this month, thanks to the U.S. Marines.

“It’s an incredible experience knowing that the Marines care enough to make a trip all the way out to your village,” said Matt Shelborne, principal at McGrath School.

Santa and the Marines arrived on Jan. 7, as they handed out presents to the children.

Normally, the program takes place indoors at the school. But the pandemic forced Santa’s visit outdoors for the first time.

“We kind of set it up for a drive-thru,” Shelborne said. “But parents really wanted to kind of get out with social distancing, and wearing masks, mingle a little bit.”

The visit also brought back memories for Shelborne who grew up in McGrath.

“During the Cold War, we had the [CH-47] Chinook [helicopter] down there, we had the [C-130] Hercules [cargo plane], we’ve always had the U.S. Marines.”

McGrath is one of this year’s stops for Santa and the Marines as part of the annual Toys for Tots program. They visit several remote parts of Alaska to help spread holiday cheer by delivering toys. Last year saw the Marines distribute nearly 34,000 toys around the state to almost 30,000 children. Efforts like that do not go unnoticed.

“It’s nice to have some, to see some light, to see somebody come out there and really focus on you and your village. It means a lot to us,” Shelborne said.

Santa and the Marines spent nearly 90 minutes with the children in McGrath.

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