Please pray for us our Toys For Tots storage container were broken into and our toys taken! We have over 1,500 families to serve on the 15th please pray
The post appeared with only a photograph of two storage units housing Toys for Tots boxes, and no link to a news story. By December 7 2018, the post was shared nearly 200,000 times. However, only Facebook friends of the poster were able to comment (despite the fact it was shareable by the public).
An exchange near the top of comments on the image included a question, presumably from a friend of the poster asking for further details about the location of the photographs. The original poster responded that they were not aware the thefts occurred in Connecticut:
On December 3 2018, the Connecticut Postreported an incident that had taken place one day before in Bridgeport, Connecticut involving a massive theft from a Toys for Tots-linked storage unit located at a local church:
On [December 2 2018], someone broke into a series of storage containers in the parking lot of the Greater Bridgeport Christian Fellowship Church and stole roughly $80,000 worth of toys, said Jerry Martinez, co-director of Toys for Tots in Bridgeport.
“It was mostly toys for kids age 7 to 14,” Martinez said. “Remote control cars, skateboards, Barbies, LOL dolls, board games. That stuff took the biggest hit.”
He said the toys were to be donated to families and organizations in Bridgeport and multiple surrounding towns — including Trumbull, Stratford, and Monroe — on Dec. 15 .
However, the images in the widely-shared Facebook post did not appear alongside that article. On December 5, the same outlet reported that a “person of interest” was named in connection with the incident.
A similar photograph was attached to a December 2010 story out of Boston, Massachusetts, which also involved a theft of Toys for Tots items from storage facilities:
$15,000 worth of toys were stolen [in December 2010] from the Toys for Tots program.
State police say the toys were being stored in a POD container at a warehouse facility in Burlington from where they would be distributed to charities.
The program, coordinated by the United State Marine Corps with help from Massachusetts State Police, collects and distributes toys for needy families.
Police say about 1,500 toys were stolen from the locked POD between 2:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. [in December 2010]. It appears the toys were sorted through and only toys valued between $15 and $30 and for children 8 and up were taken, police say.
The origin of the “stolen Toys for Tots” photograph on the viral December 2018 Facebook post shown above was not expressly clear, and theft from Toys for Tots facilities or storage pods was not a one-time occurrence. However, wording appended to the 2018 version led many to conclude that the original poster was directly connected to the December 2018 Bridgeport, Connecticut incident.
In comments on that post, the poster admitted he was not aware that the theft had taken place halfway across the country. It’s possible the poster copied the “we,” “us,” and “ours” language from an unlinked post by someone connected to the situation (or that Rice in fact volunteered for an Iowa-based Toys for Tots), but the circulating image and text did not appear to have been shared by anyone directly affected by theft from the Toys for Toys program in Bridgeport.
As the poster later noted, concerned people could best lend their assistance to the situation by donating to their local Toys for Toys program.