Daniel Boucek has been the McHenry County, Illinois, Toys for Tots Coordinator since 2021 and is a member of the local Marine Corps League (MCL). Daniel joined the United States Marine Corps after graduating high school with a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of Radio Communications and served as an Embassy Marine. He was the first in his family to join the military.
“I was going to go to college, [I] had everything lined up, and another friend of mine told me about what he was going to be doing, and I gave it a lot of consideration and thought ‘what a great opportunity’—I can serve my country, travel, hopefully, learn quite a bit, and, of course, grow up.”
After serving in the Marine Corps, he knew his job of helping others wasn’t complete. “I’ve been involved with Toys for Tots for quite a long time. I’m a member of the McHenry County MCL—that was my connection to the [local campaign]. I’ve been involved in setting up collection boxes at stores and schools and picking up the toys since 2006.”
When asked how the values of being a Marine and being involved with the Marine Corps League support the mission of Toys for Tots he said, “We are all Marines—we have a common bond. We are able to pull together to take care of [someone or something] whether it be another Marine that may need work in their home or yard, or in this case, [us needing] more volunteers to help with the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program.”
He went on to say, “I think most Marines are always willing to pitch in and help, and we all just want to do the job, we want to get the toys collected, and want to take care of the children in need in our community and even [in surrounding] communities. The citizens of our county are generous.”
Daniel and his team of MCL members and volunteers have brought tremendous joy to the children living in McHenry County, but his passion for helping those in need stems back to his childhood days. “My connection to Foster Care goes back many decades and comes from our own home. My mother and father took in foster children for a number of years. My mother loves kids, [I] am from a family of 6, I am the last of 6. When I was very young, [my parents fostered], and the majority [of the foster children] were infants. Some of [the children] would not stay very long, but we had about eight foster children in our home [throughout my young life].”
His parents became involved with fostering children through their church. “[My mother] would typically be contacted to usually take care of the [children that were hard to place]. In the beginning, since I was so young, all I knew was that there was another child in our family.”
His parents would teach him how to care for the younger foster children. As Daniel grew older, he became more involved in the foster children’s lives. “The last [foster children my parents cared for were] the children I was most attached to—those are the two that I have most of my memories [with].”
Daniel’s parents fostered children around the same time as his oldest sister had her first child. “I became an uncle at five years old—I had it down pat.”
Through his family’s experience as a foster family, Daniel’s passion for helping those less fortunate positively impacts the underprivileged children in his community. Since Daniel became the McHenry County Coordinator, his campaign has supported over 13,200 children.
His campaign also assists local Foster Care children. “[I] had a fellow Marine contact me and asked me if we could [provide] some toys to this organization that takes care of foster children. And I said, ‘why not, they are kids in need, too’—so we jumped on board right away.”
He went on to say, “Within the next week, I got a phone call from a lady within our county that [had a large donation of toys to give to the campaign]. She went on to say, ‘I’ve been given money through an organization [that would like us” to buy toys and also asked if we could direct those toys to [support] foster children.’
Daniel continued, “I thought [it was] very fortunate [that] within that week my fellow Marine told me about this organization in our county that had a need and then we have another person who purchased all these toys and I was able to tell her ‘yes’ right away, and [our campaign continues to have the bond with the organization and the lady who donated the toys].”
Daniel and his volunteers have a collective feeling when they deliver donated gifts to children in their community. “We have the sense that we have brought joy to them because it’s something that they may not have been able to have. It’s also a responsibility that we have to be able to show them that there are people out there that care. It’s a feeling of [knowing that we’ve] done a good job and knowing that there will be [many overjoyed] children.”
Whether it’s an organization, individual, another young boy or girl, or a family, every person who selflessly provides gifts, necessities, a home, or support to a child in need should feel a sense of overwhelming joy because they were able to remind a child in need that there is still hope for a brighter future.
Because he grew up in a family that opened their home to foster children, Daniel was thrilled when Toys for Tots launched their Foster Care initiative and what he learned growing up with foster children is priceless – “It’s the care, the love, the responsibility that I know I gained in being part of a Foster Care family. You fall in love with these kids.”
It is Toys for Tots’ hope that we can bring more joy to children in need beyond the holiday season and be champions for those in Foster Care. Through our year-round initiatives and the support of Coordinators, like Daniel, and other organizations, we will provide even more support to our Nation’s most valuable resource—our children.