COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For nearly six decades, one Columbia man has had a hand in helping to make children's Christmas wishes come true.
"As one of Santa's best helpers, Larry is a great elf and he opens up his home, as does his family to having the toys stored there," Fielding Freed, a member of the Marine Corps League in Columbia who says he's known Larry Shunkwiler for the last two years, said.
It turns out Shunkwiler, 78, has been volunteering with Toys for Tots since the 1960's when he lived in Cleveland. He moved to Columbia in the 1970's and has been a big part of the Toys for Tots effort in the Midlands ever since.
"Larry is the one of the biggest helps, and the single biggest help that I have," Marine Corps SSgt. Quentin Bryant. "Between Larry and the Marine Corps League, they've maintained a list of 375 d rop sites over the past 5 or 6 years, and they've always been a great help."
While the Toys for Tots effort is led by the Marine Corps Reserve, the Marine Corps League helps supports their efforts. That's how Larry got involved after his days of active duty back in the late 1950';s.
"You were invited to take used toys home and repair them at home," Shunkwiler said. "Bicycles, baby buggies -- that sort of thing -- that's how I got involved way back then."
Since then, Larry hasn't slowed down. He's determined to make sure no child goes without which is why Mungo Homes' wanted to honor Larry as a Community Builder and help with his efforts. Larry thought WIS was covering a story on the campaign when Mary Mungo interrupted to surprise Larry with a hard hat.
It was a big surprise for a man who's been helping to surprise local families with Christmas presents for years.
"There's an occasional tear on your shoulder from moms and dads that are so grateful," Shunkwiler said. "That's the hard part, because I'm a real softy- so that's pretty touching."
Larry's efforts are also touching, as they continue to spread the Christmas spirit.
The Toys for Tots campaign is still going on this year. You can find drop-off locations around the Midlands here.