Toys for Tots will hold a fundraising concert on July 8 at Merchant Park in Downtown Pratt

Christmas presents under the tree is not usually something people think about just after Independence Day but for one organization, they think about it year round.

Toys for Tots not only thinks about toys but hosts events, even in July, to collect toys and gather cash donations to purchase toys, said Jason Leslie, Toys for Tots area coordinator.

Although its six months to Christmas, Toys for Tots is hosting a fundraising concert to make sure every child in Pratt gets a toy at Christmas.

From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 8 in Merchant Park at Fourth and Main in Downtown Pratt, Toys for Tots will host a concert featuring Verlan Elliott, who sings and accompanies himself on the guitar, and "Freddy Fox and the Hotrods." While admission is free, concert goers are asked to donate a new, unwrapped toy or make a cash contribution. Also on hand that night, Two Butts BBQ will have food available for purchase and a portion of their proceeds will be donated to Toys for Tots as well.

Last year was the first year for Toys for Tots that is associated with the Marine Corps Reserve. Since it was the first year, the Marine Corps Reserve helped supply toys by arranging for supplemental toys from toy manufacturers. Locally donated toys plus cash donations of over $7,000 and the supplemental toys allowed Toys for Tots to give over 2,000 toys to over 500 children and help 160 families in Pratt County, Leslie said.

"It was a very successful campaign last year," Leslie said.

It takes a lot of time and effort to make a campaign this size successful. Campaign workers spend the entire year planning and promoting and holding fundraisers so they can provide toys to children that might not otherwise receive a toy for Christmas, Leslie said.

Since they work with the Marine Corps Reserve, all donations, both toys and monetary, have to go through an audit process. This checks and balances process assures that everything goes towards Toys for Tots.

Last years campaign was very successful. There were some toys and some cash funds left over that will be applied to this year's campaign, Leslie said.

The campaign is already off to a good start. Doug Ray Chevrolet donated a 1999 Chevy pickup to Toys for Tots and was auctioned off for $2,100.

Other fund raisers are in the works. A fundraising barbecue is coming later this year in Lemon Park with date to be announced later. A car show will also be part of that event.

Volunteers are always welcome to help with Toys for Tots.

The American Legion asked Leslie, who was in the Marine Reserves from 1995 to 2001 and rose to the rank of sergeant, if he would be interested in taking over the program. He worked with Toys for Tots when he was in the Marine Reserves so he was already familiar with the program.

Leslie was stationed in Richmond, Va. and an artillery cannoniere, manning a 198 Howitzer, the largest artillery gun in the military, Leslie said.

@GaleR_Tribune