WILKES-BARRE — Area residents were bouncing off the walls at Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park on Monday night for a good cause.
In a kickoff event for Toys for Tots, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve faced off on the dodgeball court with members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard teams along with teams from Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services and some of its tenants.
The event brought 18 teams of five players each out to the facility’s dodgeball courts, where players were at liberty to dodge the ball by a variety of means, including back flips, front flips and jumping as high as they could, gaining momentum from the trampoline-like surfaces.
Kathy Coslett, director of Community Affairs for Mericle, couldn’t have been happier.
Coslett said that for 18 years, Mericle has donated warehouse space to the Toys for Tots campaign. In 2013, they responded to the Marine Corps’ need for more toys to meet growing demand for holiday gifts by disadvantaged families.
Since then, the effort has taken off, growing from 16 participating Mericle tenants contributing 17 cartons of toys to 60 tenants donating 88 cartons of toys.
As a Mericle tenant, Sky Zone hosted the event and will offer a $5 discount on 60-minute Open Jump tickets Tuesday through Dec. 6 to customers who bring a new, unwrapped toy, game, stocking stuffer or book to drop in its Toys for Tots campaign.
Staff Sgt. Louis Cortes, coordinator of this year’s program, said it was more than a job, but a labor of love.
The father of four, Cortes said he knew of many area residents struggling to put toys under the tree for their children.
“Every year, we help about 25,000,” he said. “We want that number to grow.”
As Coslett, looked out over those enthusiastically gathered, she said, “This gives me goose bumps. The community is coming together to help its children.”
Owner Jeff Browne, who purchased the franchise in September, said the event and the effort embody the spirit of cooperation and caring which defines Skyzone.
“We want to be involved in various efforts that benefit the community,” he said. “Whether that be participating in the Paint Pittston pink effort for breast cancer or helping children during the holidays.”
Cortes said he hoped the community would also respond throughout the season by giving toys or by volunteering.
“After the toys are collected, they need to be sorted and make their way to non-profit organizations who will distribute them,” he said.
He credited his “brethren across the branches” with making the event possible.
After addressing the crowd, Cortes concluded with an “Oorah!” drawing applause and laughter from those gathered to ensure area children would have a package to unwrap and a toy to enjoy on Christmas morning.
In the spirit of the both the event and the effort, although the Sky Zone team took home the trophy, they donated the grand prize — a 4-pack of club seats plus VIP parking at Mohegan Sun Pocono, donated by the casino — to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve team “Fire for Effect.”
Reach Geri Gibbons at 570-991-6117 or on Twitter @TLGGibbons.