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'Warriors' sacrifice for the kids

Posted: December 6, 2008 9:25 p.m.
Updated: December 7, 2008 4:59 a.m.

Joanne Aguayano and Cheryle Russell, both of Stevenson Ranch, drop off unwrapped toys for a Toys for Tots drive at Warrior Fitness Camp's holiday party Friday night at the Hyatt Valencia.

 
More than 100 people gathered to give at the Hyatt Valencia Friday night as part of the Toys for Tots drive at Warrior Fitness Camp's holiday party.

The Marines who serve as trainers for Warrior Fitness collected unwrapped toys Friday and will continue to gather them through Dec. 20 at the Warrior Fitness gym, 28065 Smyth Drive in Valencia.

Warrior Fitness is owned by Tchicaya Missamou, an immigrant from the Congo and a United States Marine.

"This country has given me everything I have," he said. "It's my honor to give back."

Missamou knows what it's like to grow up without toys or other luxuries.

He was one of 16 children in his tiny Congolese village where the family ate from the same pot with their hands and the village shared a black-and-white television, he said.

Missamou escaped civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997 and immigrated to the United States.

In 2000, he joined the Marine Corps and earned his citizenship, and served in a Marine infantry unit in Iraq in 2003 (see separate story).

Cameras flashed as Missamou's family, friends and training students showed up Friday to show their support for his business and Toys for Tots.

"I've been so blessed, I want to give to kids who don't have," said Caitlin Vidal, a trainer at Warrior Fitness Camp. She donated a My Little Pony doll and a G.I. Joe action figure.

Even the tanking economy didn't stop Vidal from giving.

"Everybody says it's so horrible, but you can always find something to give," she said.

The Toys for Tots program runs right to the core of the Marines' mission of service, Gunnery Sgt. James Baskin said.

"We know we are at a time of war and people are thankful. But they are especially thankful to see us with toys for kids," he said.

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