Elkhart Area Marines distribute 4,500 toys to Ukrainian refugees

Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 5:23 PM EST
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ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - A pair of members of Elkhart Area Marines are back on U.S. soil after spending 18 days in Estonia where they distributed toys to 3,500 Ukrainian refugee children.

In July, WNDU reported on the group’s efforts to collect money in order to buy toys for the children.

“Unfortunately, children are always the victim of war and so anytime you can, you know, make it a little better for them, it’ll just - it’ll stick with you forever,” remarked Chris Grendys, Junior Vice Commandant of Elkhart Area Marines.

Joined by Past Commandant Brad Ulick, Grendys said they personally delivered 4,500 toys to children. Additional toys were being sent directly to Ukraine.

“It was very gratifying and rewarding, you know, knowing that these kids had nothing when they left, you know. All they had was a shirt on their back when they left their country,” Grendys described.

Grendys said some of the women they met in Estonia had just delivered their babies in the country after fleeing their native Ukraine.

“We had one lady that came up to us after we distributed toys, and she told us she had just gotten into Estonia the day before. And she had witnessed her, her neighbor’s house being destroyed by missiles from Russia,” recalled Grendys. “Stuff like that just will always stick with me.”

Grendys said seeing how the toys made the children smile made their special delivery especially meaningful.

“That was our mission from, from day one: to go over there and put smiles on little kids’ faces,” said Grendys. “And we accomplish that mission.”

Grand Design RV paid for Ulick’s and Grendys’ airline tickets to Estonia while the company responsible for shipping the container of 6,000 toys fully paid the shipping costs.

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