Disabled Marine helps kids have a merry Christmas

12/01/2013 3:00 PM

12/01/2013 3:02 PM

In past Christmas seasons, the most money and toys raised by Toys for Tots volunteers and officials was $5,000 at Ridgmar Mall.

But last year the bar was raised by Tarrant County Marine Corps League member Bill Fischer, who — with the aid of dozens of helpers — raised about $14,500 to purchase toys for children in Dallas-Fort Worth.

This Christmas season, the 56-year-old Arlington Marine and volunteers are back at Ridgmar Mall, where they aim to surpass the mark they established last year.

“I believe we can do even better this year,” Fischer said.

Toys for Tots donation boxes are already out at Ridgmar Mall, but a major collection campaign is scheduled this weekend as active-duty Marine Corps reservists, dozens of Tarrant County Young Marines and other volunteers will be at the mall to accept toys and cash.

Fischer’s three-day effort runs Friday through Sunday at the mall, 1888 Green Oaks Road. It’s part of a nationwide Toys for Tots event by the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve.

A former truck driver and Marine for 10 years, Fischer is a community volunteer veteran who is wheelchair-bound because of a degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis of the spine.

“It doesn’t slow me down,” Fischer said.

When he isn’t volunteering, Fischer plays TAPS on his trumpet at Marine memorial services throughout North Texas. He also played during the Veteran’s Day parade in downtown Fort Worth in early November.

But Fischer’s focus this month and for the next several days is the Toys for Tots campaign.

“This means a lot to our kids,” said Luther Hogan of Cleburne, executive officer of the Tarrant County Young Marines, a youth education and service organization that will have 40 to 50 children at Ridgmar Mall to help with the campaign.

“It’s a big community service push for us,” Hogan said. “We believe in it.”

Marine Cpl. Celena Ramirez estimates that more than 40 Marines will be at the west Fort Worth mall for collection duties during the three-day event

“We’ll be all over the mall,” said Ramirez, the military site coordinator. “Many people love to talk Marines and take our pictures. We hope for a good turnout.”

A huge turnout is what Fischer needs to surpass the 2012 Toys for Tots total at Ridgmar Mall. Last year, Toys for Tots officials in North Texas helped more than 200,000 children get two toys each for Christmas and a gift for their birthday.

Fischer hopes to reach $30,000 this Christmas.

“We are doing everything we can to make Christmas just a little brighter for the children,” Fischer said. “We’ll give it our best shot this year.”

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