The Randy Oler Operation Toy Drop, a Fort Bragg airborne tradition, is set to collect and distribute more than 20,000 toys to children and Families in need just before the holidays.

Operation Toy Drop combines thousands of toys, Army paratroopers, hundreds of volunteers, dozens of allied military personnel and more than a dozen Air Force aircraft … all for what has become the world’s largest combined airborne operation. ??All this for one reason – making sure children have a reason to smile this holiday season.

The first event was held in 1998 and was the brainchild of then Staff Sgt. Randy Oler, a civil affairs Soldier.

After eight months of planning, the first Operation Toy Drop was completed on a wing, a prayer and Oler’s many handshakes across several organizations. It was small and just 550 toys were collected — but it was a start.

It has grown each year since and in 2011, more than 12,000 toys were distributed to social services agencies, children’s homes and hospitals in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Seattle – in addition to the more than 11,000 that were distributed throughout the Carolinas.

This year, as of Nov. 28, seven nations are participating in the 2012 Operation Toy Drop: Italy, Germany, Canada, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil and The Netherlands.

The “Lottery Day” for toy collection is Dec. 7, 7 a.m. to noon, on Green Ramp on Pope Field; and Dec. 8, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., for airborne operations on Sicily Drop Zone.

For more information about the toy drop, visit www.facebook.com/OperationToyDrop or http://www.optoydrop.blogspot.com.