A UNITED States Marine Corps pilot has jetted into Cornwall in the run up to Christmas buying toys for children.

Culdrose personnel have been collecting new toys and giving them out to families who are not coping well at this festive time.

The lead behind this is Captain Bridger Leary, a United States Marine Corps fast jet pilot on exchange flying 736 Naval Air Squadron hawks based at Culdrose.

Back in the United States, the marines have a tradition where they collect money or new toys and hand them out to local families whose children may not receive any gifts at Christmas.

Capt Bridger thought it would be a great idea to continue with this here in Cornwall.

‘It’s a time for giving and many families are focusing on food and other essentials; they just don’t have any spare cash for their children. We added extra to the price of a ticket on our Christmas party and also asked people to bring a new toy to add to our collection. We soon got lots of toys and money to buy more.’ he said.

The captain then looked for local charities to help with the distribution for the toys. One was Helston Lizard Food Bank. Along with their food this Christmas, families with children will also receive a toy. David Williams runs the Mustard Seed Café which works with the Food Bank.

He said: "We are very grateful for the toys; our families will really appreciate the generosity of what Bridger and Culdrose have done.’

Another organisation that is helping with the distribution of the toys is Nat West Bank in Cornwall. They collect toys and give them to children who are in Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske over Christmas. The manager of the Helston and Falmouth branches is Jasmine Holland.

She said: ‘We are so grateful for all the toys that our customers and Culdrose have given. It will make such a difference to the children who are in hospital over Christmas.’

A number of the toys were also sent to the housing charity Polruan Court in Truro. The manager Mathew Clements was very grateful.

He said:‘For the families that we are working with, receiving these toys will make such a difference to their Christmas. We would like to thank all of those involved. It means so much to receive the gifts but also to know that other people are thinking of those who may be having a hard time. Thank you.’

Capt Bridger goes back to the United States next year. The aim is for this American tradition to carry on and for RNAS Culdrose to continue to provide toys for tots for years to come.