Military families receive free toys through SuperParent Program

Armed Services YMCA hosts its annual toy program

SAN DIEGO - The Armed Services YMCA Wednesday opened its annual SuperParent holiday gift shop, where military parents pick out donated gifts for their children.

The agency plans to distribute 5,000 toys to some 600 military families. About 400 families on a waiting list will get a chance to look over the goods on Thursday, according to the YMCA.

On Wednesday, the Armed Services YMCA kicked off the program at its Tierrasanta office and provided free toys for 1,000 local military families.

This was Britney Reed's first time at the event.

"Definitely above and beyond what I could have expected. I'm overwhelmed a little bit," Reed told 10News reporter Melissa Mecija.

Reed, whose husband is stationed at MCAS Miramar, finally settled on a toy pony for one daughter and a princess costume for the other.

"I know she'll be excited," Reed said.

Reed joins hundreds of other military families who get to choose from all the donated gifts.

For Natana Denzmore, a single mom and active duty member of the Navy, anything helps.

"It's definitely a blessing," Denzmore said.

"Two gifts is a lot," added Nicole Marsh, another military wife.

Many military families live at or near the federal poverty level and struggle to make ends meet at this time of year, according to the Armed Services YMCA.

"We have provided the SuperParent program for 26 years and we know firsthand how much these families struggle to make ends meet," said Amy de Mueles, the agency's social work program director. "For military parents, being able to provide a holiday gift for a child means so much more than the gift itself. It's about showing them how appreciated they are and helping to eliminate some of the holiday stress."

Parents helped by a shopping assistant can pick out two new toys for each child in their household. Members of the San Diego Padres plan to be on hand Thursday, according to the Y.

There was also entertainment at Wednesday's event, including Chopper the Biker Dog. Some kids instantly fell in love with the Boston Terrier, who sits on a small electric toy motorcycle and allows all the kids to pet him.

"If we can come out here and make some kids smile and laugh and just bring a little something extra to somebody, that's what we're here for," said Chopper's owner, Mark Shaffer.

The program operates with backing from the Spiva Family Foundation, Downtown San Diego Lions Club, Kiwanis Club of San Diego, and the Armed Services Family Support Fund San Diego at the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation.

The event continues Thursday morning at 9 a.m.

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