“Patients and nonpatients are both welcome to donate toys through Dec. 19,” said Lynn Harrison, the new patient coordinator at Aspire. “It was exciting last year when we were able to deliver bags and bags of toys to the Marines in Chattanooga.”
The Marines reservist base in Chattanooga collects, sorts and distributes toys to less fortunate children. The toys that are distributed come from the donations of the surrounding cities. Individuals can make a donation by dropping off a toy in any specially marked Toys for Tots box, like the one found in the Aspire office.
Every person who drops off an age-appropriate, unwrapped toy at Aspire Orthodontics will be given either a green or red T-shirt that reads, ‘Peace, Love, Smile.’
“I think this is an important time to give to those less fortunate,” Harrison said. “So often people worry about giving to their family and they forget how many others are not going to get anything. My kids are grown and they are capable of buying for themselves, but so many children are not.”
This will be the second program this fall that Harrison has headed up with Aspire that supports the armed forces.
“I think about all of the men and women that choose to join the armed forces and what they are actually sacrificing,” Harrison explained. “With that thought comes the realization that I need to do more on my end.”
Harrison’s respect for the military began when she witnessed her father’s service to the U.S. while in the Air Force. When her youngest son, Lance Corporal Ryan Wade Fuller, joined the Marines she began to look for ways to support those in the armed services.
“Ryan began talking about the military and joining the Air Force at age 4,” Harrison said. “He was enthralled by airplanes and I was fine with him joining.”
Fuller decided to join the Marines while attending Cleveland High School.
“In 11th grade he began talking to me about early enrollment. Finally I told him, ‘Son, I am fine with you signing the papers as soon as you turn 18, but I will not sign anything that makes that decision for you,’” Harrison said.
Harrison worried that Fuller would be called away early to the Middle East. Fuller worried his mother would stand in the way of early training. Not to be deterred, Fuller showed up at the Aspire office with his recruiters in tow.
The recruiters assured Harrison that she would not be signing Fuller up for the Marines. He would still have to make the decision when he turned 18, but early enrollment allowed for training.
“I boo-hooed,” Harrison recalled. “We were in war, I did not want to send him into that. I can get teary-eyed just thinking about it.”
Fuller left for Parris Island, S.C., the Marines boot camp, three days after his high school graduation.
“I received a phone call from Ryan upon his arrival,” recalled Harrison. “I answered and immediately heard Ryan shouting, ‘This is Private Ryan Fuller ... I have arrived safely at Parris Island! Do not attempt to contact me by this phone. You will hear from me in a week via mail.’”
Harrison received a typed letter from her son two weeks after the phone call. For three months there was no verbal communication between her and Fuller. Throughout the summer Harrison sent her son boxes of beef jerky, gum, and magazines.
“When I first saw him [after boot camp] I was amazed,” Harrison said. “He was the epitome of a Marine. Ryan was everything I had imagined he could be.”
Today, Fuller is married and preparing for his first deployment to Afghanistan and the arrival of his first child in June.
“The doctors in the office here have been so supportive by letting me save up my vacation days,” Harrison said. “Ryan will have two weeks off before being deployed and I want to be able to see him when that happens.”
In the meantime, Harrison is keeping a steady eye on the Marines’ Toys for Tots box in the office.
“We have literally had people drop off a truck full of toys,” Harrison recalled. “They said that they would come every year as long as we are collecting. It is very exciting when people decide to give.”
Anyone interested in donating a toy can do so at the Aspire Orthodontics office located at 2175 Chambliss Ave. N.W., Ste. A, or call 423-476-7561 for more information. For more information about the Toys for Tots program, visit www.toysfortots.org.