WASHINGTON (AP) — Tugging a huge red sack stuffed with toys, Michelle Obama thanked military families for inspiring her as first lady as she delivered about 900 gifts Tuesday from White House employees to the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots campaign.
"Military families are what inspires my work," Mrs. Obama said at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.
She along with Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, started the Joining Forces campaign in 2011 to honor and support military families.
Mrs. Obama said the annual toy drive— which was started by a Marine reservist and his wife— is just one example of how military families go the extra mile to serve their communities and country. The first lady said military families, who face hardships, struggles and constant deployment, are always first to step up and volunteer.
"Somehow you're always the ones who find the extra hours in the day to give back, above and beyond what life has thrown your way anyway," she said.
Mrs. Obama wished volunteers and service members at the military base "Happy Holidays" as she helped sort unwrapped toys into bins marked for boy and girls by different age groups.
She noted that most toy drives are often short on gifts for older children.
"A lot of times when we do the shopping we like to reach for the cute little bear or the little doll, but the truth is that they also need gifts for older kids as well," she said.
For children ages 11 to 14, she suggested books, games, backpacks and clothes "because if your teens are like mine, they want some clothes, something cute to wear."
Mrs. Obama is the mother of daughters Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11.
Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Pete Osman, president and CEO of Toys for Tots, said the demand for gifts seems to go up every season, especially in the Northeast after this year's "curveball" Superstorm Sandy.
Osman thanked the first lady for being the program's "No. 1 volunteer" since she has enlisted public support and rolled up her sleeves to help in each of her four years in the White House.
"When Michelle Obama leads, the American people follow," he said.
Presents collected from the White House toy drive included school supplies, books and toys by K'NEX Brands. President Barack Obama picked up the toys last month when he visited a suburban Philadelphia toy factory as part of his campaign to get the public to pressure Congress to act to prevent the so-called "fiscal cliff."
Toys for Tots: http://toysfortots.org